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"A cyclone of unorthodox ideas capable of lifting 
almost any brain out of its cognitive Kansas." 

— Tom Rob bins 

Tom Robbins 

High Adventure, Hallucinogens, and the Secrets of the "Planet Soul" 

"Scholar, theoretician, explorer, dreamer, pioneer, fanatic, and spellbinder, as well as 
ontological tailor, McKenna combines an erudite, if somewhat original, overview of 
history with a genuinely visionary approach to the millennium. The result is a cyclone 
of unorthodox ideas capable of lifting almost any brain out of its cognitive Kansas." 
—TOM ROBBINS, from the Foreword 

"As wordsmith and logos laser, [McKenna] stews his conceptional imagination in 
language so potent that doors open into evolutionary destiny and possible worlds. A 
radically innovative natural philosophy is offered here, one that inspires a new ecology 
of inner and outer space." 

—JEAN HOUSTON, Ph.D.. director, Foundation for Mind Research, author of The 
Possible Human and The Search for the Beloved 

"[McKenna's] ideas are rare jewels discovered during expeditions to the heights and 
depths of inner space. . . The Archaic Revival is flammable to the drybrush and 
deadwood of the intellect. In the twilight of human history, McKenna's prescription for 
salvation is just so crazy it might work." 

—ALEX GREY, artist, author of Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art ol Alex Grey 

ited by the L.A. Weekly as "the culture's foremost spokesman for the psychedelic 
experience," Terence McKenna is an underground legend as a brilliant raconteur, 
adventurer, and expert on the experiential use of mind-altering plants. 

In these essays, interviews, and narrative adventures, McKenna takes us on a 
mesmerizing journey deep into the Amazon as well as into the hidden recesses of the 
human psyche and the outer limits of our culture, giving us startling visions of the past 
and the future. 

| TERENCE McKENNA has spent twenty-five years exploring "the 
ethnopharmacology of spiritual transformation" and is a special- 
islintheethnomedicineoftheAmazonbasin, He is coauthor, with 
his brother Dennis, of The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucino- 
gens, and the I Ching, and aulhor of the forthcoming Food of the 


^AolaGesign by Timm Sinclair 
UBBoaBn by Salty, copyright ©1991 by Waiter Medeiros 
Aulhor photo by Kalhleen T Carr 

USA $16.0Li 

CANADA $22.75 



Speculations on 
Psychedelic Mushrooms, 
the Amazon, Virtual Reality, 
UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, 
the Rebirth of the Goddess, 
and the End of History 


Illustrations by Satty 

ooi. 9 


A DmiiionofllirpeiCoWiraPublishers 

Excerpt from "Sailing to Byzantium" reprinted with permission of 
Macmillan Publishing Company from THE POEMS OF W. B. YEATS: A 
NEW EDITION, edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright © 1928 by 
Macmillan Publishing Company, renewed 1956 by George Yeats. 

Credits appear on page 265. 

THE ARCHAIC REVIVAL. Copyright © 1991 by Terence McKenna. Collage illustrations by 
Satty, copyright © 1991 by Walter Medeiros. Tassili shaman sketches and I Ching figures 
by Kathleen Harrison McKenna. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of 
America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever 
without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical 

articles and reviews, for information address HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd 
Street, New York, NY 10022. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 
McKenna, Terence K. 

The archaic revival : speculations on psychedelic mushrooms, the Amazon, virtual re- 
ality, UFOs, evolution. Shamanism, the rebirth of the goddess, and the end of history / 
Terence McKenna. — 1st ed. 
p. cm. 

Includes index. 

ISBN 0-06-250613-7 

1. Mysticism. 2. Shamanism. 3. Hallucinogenic drugs. 
4. McKenna, Terence K. L Title. 


98 99 00 01 HAD 15 14 13 12 

To my father, 
Joe McKenna 


Foreword by Tom Robbins xii 
Acknowledgments xv 

Introduction: The Archaic Revival 2 

1. In Praise of Psychedelics 6 
(with Jay Levin) 

2. High Frontiers Interview 26 
(with Will Noffke) 

3. Tryptamine Hallucinogens 34 
and Consciousness 

4. Remarks to ARUPA, 1984 50 

6. Alien Love 72 

7. New Maps of Hyperspace 90 

8. Temporal Resonance 104 

9. Among Ayahuasqueros 116 

10. Mushrooms and Evolution 142 

11. "New Dimensions" Interview 156 
(with Michael Toms) 

12. The Voynich Manuscript 172 

13. Wasson's Literary Precursors 186 

14. Critique Interview 204 
(with David Jay Brown 
and Rebecca McClen) 

15. Plan/Plant/Planet 218 

16. Virtual Reality and 228 
Electronic Highs 

17. Sacred Plants & Mystic Realities 238 
(with Nevill Drury) 

Bibliography 253 
Index 255 


FROM my downtown Seattle apartment, a number of 
provocative neon signs are visible, silently reciting them- 
selves like lines from a hot, jerky poem. Above the en- 
trance to the Champ Arcade, for example, there flashes the 
phrase live GIRLS, live GIRLS, LIVE girls, a sentiment that 
never fails to bring me joy, especially when I consider the 
alternative. Less jubilant, though more profound, is the 
sign in the dry cleaner's window. It reads simply, alter- 
ations, but it always reminds me of Terence McKenna — not merely be- 
cause Terence McKenna is a leading authority on the experiential 
aspects of mind-altering plants, or because his lectures and workshops 
have altered my own thinking, but because Terence, perhaps more than 
anyone else in our culture, has the ability to let out the waist on the 
trousers of perception and raise the hemline of reality. 

Scholar, theoretician, explorer, dreamer, pioneer, fanatic, and 
spellbinder, as well as ontological tailor, McKenna combines an erudite, 
if somewhat original, overview of history with a genuinely visionary ap- 
proach to the millennium. The result is a cyclone of unorthodox ideas 
capable of lifting almost any brain out of its cognitive Kansas. When 
Hurricane Terence sets one's mind back down, however, one will find 
that it is on solid ground; for, far from Oz-built, the theories and specu- 
lations of McKenna are rooted in a time-tested pragmatism thousands of 
years old. Many of his notions astonish us not because they are so new, 
but because they have been so long forgotten. 

As the title, The Archaic Revival, implies, McKenna has found a 
key to the future in the dung heap of the past. (It is entirely appropriate 
to note that psychoactive mushrooms often sprout from cow pies.) 
During the European Renaissance, scientists, artists, and enlightened cit- 


izens turned back to a much older Greek civilization for the marble 
sparks with which to ignite their marvelous new bonfire. In more than 
one place in this collection of essays and conversations, McKenna is urg- 
ing that we turn back — way, way back — to Paleolithic shamanism, to re- 
trieve techniques that not only could ensure our survival, but could 
assist us in mounting a fresh golden age: in fact, the golden age, the one 
toward which the plot of all history has been building. 

McKenna doesn't consider himself a shaman, although he has 
studied with shamans (and drunk their potent potions) in Asia and the 
Amazon. He says, however, that he is attempting "to explore reality 
with a shamanic spirit and by shamanic means." Indeed, the shaman's 
rattle buzzes hypnotically throughout these pages, although it is some- 
times obscured by the whoosh of UFOs, for McKenna's imagination 
(and expertise) ranges from the jungle to hyperspace, and only a dolt 
would ever call him retro. 

Here, let me squirt a few drops of Terence's essence into the 
punch bowl, so that we might sample the flavor and chart the ripples: 

My vision of the final human future is an effort to exteriorize the soul 
and interiorize the body, so that the exterior soul will exist as a supercon- 

of us at a critical juncture at our psychedelic bar mitzvah. 


The purpose of life is to familiarize oneself with [the] after-death body so 
that the act of dying will not create confusion in the psyche. 


I don't believe that the world is made of quarks or electromagnetic 
waves, or stars, or planets, or any of these things. I believe the world is 
made of language. 


There is a hidden factor in the evolution of human beings which is neither 
a "missing link" nor a telos imparted from on high. I suggest that . . . [the] 
factor that called human consciousness forth from a bipedal ape with 
binocular vision involved a feedback loop with plant hallucinogens. 


Right here and now, one quanta away, there is raging a universe of ac- 
tive intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely 
alien. . . . What is driving religious feeling [today] is a wish for contact 
[with that] Other. 



I scoured India and could not convince myself that it wasn't a shell game 
of some sort or was any more real than the states manipulated by the 
various schools of New Age psychotherapy. But in the Amazon . . . you 
are conveyed into worlds that are appallingly different . . . [yet] more 
real than real. 

These tiny sips from McKenna's gourd, served out of context and 
stripped of his usual droll garnishes, are nevertheless intoxicating and, 
to my mind, nourishing. In larger gulps, his brew may even heal the ul- 
cers through which the modern world is bleeding. 

Our problems today are more complex and more threatening 
than at any time in history. Sadly, we cannot even begin to solve those 
problems, because our reality orientations are lower than a snowman's 
blood pressure. We squint at existence through thick veils of personal 
and societal ignorance, overlaid with still more opaque sheets of disin- 
formation, thoughtfully provided by the state, the church, and big busi- 
ness (often one and the same). The difference between us and Helen 
Keller is that she knew she was deaf and blind. 

Radical problems call for radical solutions. Conventional politi- 
cians are too softheaded to create radical solutions and too fainthearted 
to implement them if they could, whereas political revolutionaries, no 
matter how well meaning, ultimately offer only bloodshed followed by 
another round of repression. 

To truly alter conditions, we must alter ourselves — philosophical- 
ly, psychologically, and, perhaps, biologically. The first step in those al- 
terations will consist mainly of cutting away the veils in order that we 
might see ourselves for that transgalactic Other that we really are and al- 
ways have been. Terence the Tailor has got the sharpest shears in town. 
And he's open Sundays and holidays. Once the veils are severed, we, 
each of us, can finally start to attend to our self-directed mutagenesis. 

The flying saucer is warming up its linguistic engines. The mush- 
room is shoving its broadcasting transmitter through the forest door. 
Time for the monkeys to move into hyperspace! It's going to be a weird, 
wild trip, but, guided by the archaic, Gaia-given gyroscope, we can com- 
mence the journey in a state of excitement and hope. With his uniquely 
secular brand of eschatological euphoria, Terence McKenna is inviting 
us to a Doomsday we can live with. Be there or be square. 

Tom Robbins 
Seattle, Washington 


I WANT to thank the many people and organizations that have invit- 
ed me to express my opinions in various forums over the years. 
Revision, Gnosis, L.A. Weekly, Mondo 2000, Critique, Whole Earth 
Review, Magical Blend, and the Australian journal Nature and Health 
all cooperated in the reprinting of essays or interviews that original- 
ly appeared in their pages. Thanks to the fine journalists who con- 
ducted these interviews: Jay Levin, Will Noffke, Michael Toms, 
David Brown, Rebecca McClen; and Neville Drury. Special thanks 
to Faustin Bray and Brian Wallace of Sound Photosynthesis of Mill 
Valley for recording and editing many of my lectures and events. And 
special thanks to Diane and Roy Tuckman of Los Angeles; the hundreds 
of hours of Southern California airtime that they have given to my ideas 
has been invaluable in helping me reach a larger audience. 

The ideas expressed here were formed and often recast in the en- 
vironment of Esalen Institute, where I have done some of my best think- 
ing; to the management, staff, and seminarians of Esalen I offer deep 

Friends in the many dozens helped form these ideas. First among 
these is my partner Kat Harrison McKenna, whose enthusiasm for the 
joys of the imagination equals my own. Thanks to Peter Meyer, who 
wrote the computer software that supports the Timewave. Thanks to my 
brother Dennis and to Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham, all of 
whom helped me clarify my ideas. And to Tom Robbins for his generous 
foreword. Better friends than these no man could ask for. 

And finally I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my editor, Dan 
Levy, who believed passionately in these ideas and whose friendship 
and humor made working on this book a sheer delight. 

Hallucinogenic plants and other psychedelic substances may be 
harmful to health, and in many jurisdictions in the United States and 
throughout the world, it is illegal to possess and use such substances. 

Readers are advised that they use such substances entirely at their 
own risk. The author and the publisher of this book disclaim liability for 
any adverse effects resulting from the use of any hallucinogenic plant or 
other psychedelic substance that is discussed herein. 


The Archaic Revival 

WELCOME to the Archaic Revival. Twenty-five 
years ago I began to grapple with the realization 
that exploring the "Wholly Other" was related to 
shamanism. Pursuing that insight led me to use 
plant hallucinogens as a means of probing the 
mysterious dimension this oldest of humanity's 
religions has always claimed to be able to access. 
Of all the techniques used by the shaman to in- 
duce ecstasy and visionary voyaging — fasting, prolonged drumming, 
breath control, and stressful ordeals — I now feel confident that the use of 
hallucinogenic plants is the most effective, dependable, and powerful. I 
believe that rational exploration of the enigma of the Other is possible 
and that the shamanic approach to hallucinogenic plants, especially 
those containing psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), will be ab- 
solutely central to achieving that end. 

These essays, conversations, and interviews, while they make for- 
ays far afield, always return to the theme of the Other and its mysterious 
interpenetration of our lives. It is this that I am concerned to communi- 
cate: both the nearness and the strangeness of uncharted realms of risk 
and beauty full of promise. My hope is that these pieces convey a sense 
of fun and excitement, of discovery, and of the true depth of the dark 
waters of mystery upon which the cheerful world of the everyday is no 
more than a cork bobbing in an uncharted ocean. 

I am acutely aware, as many of my readers will be, of the surreal, 
prophetistic, and even grandiose aspects of many of these ideas. I have 
come to hold the opinions expressed here based on a lifetime of peculiar 


eriences. Those experiences occurred at the edge of sanctioned reali- 
y, and in the absence of those experiences there would be no basis for 
my heretical opinions. But I have found the universe of psychedelic 
sm to be a corpus delecti for those seeking evidence that all is not 
with the sunny world of materialism and scientific rationalism. 
In addition to choosing to repress the strange abilities of the 
shaman and the psychic potential of contact with the Other, Western tra- 
dition has a built-in bias against self-experimentation with hallucino- 
gens. One of the consequences of this is that not enough has been 
written about the phenomenology of personal experiences with the vi- 
sionary hallucinogens. The exceptions are noteworthy and entertaining. 
Fitz Hugh Ludlow and Aldous Huxley come to mind, and both seem to 
exemplify two rules operating in such situations: each appeared early in 
the wave of interest that attended the "discovery" of hashish and later 
mescaline by the literate bourgeoisie, and each was naive in terms of 
medical or psychopharmacological presuppositions. The hallucinogenic 
South American brew yage, or ayahuasca, had its effects chronicled in a 
similar way by William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in The Yogi 
Letters. These early descriptions of the effects of hallucinogens are like 
the exaggerated and romantic accounts that European explorers carried 
home with them from the New World. The realms of adventurous fanta- 
sy only gradually gave way to the mapped and explored continents we 

The Archaic Revival is my explorer's notebook, my journey of trav- 
el through time and ideological space. It stretches from the prehistoric 
veldt of Africa to the unimaginable world beyond the transcendental ob- 
ject at the end of history. The Archaic Revival is also a roadshow of new 
strains of thought: we can evolve no faster than our language evolves. 

The Arcfmic Revival offers tonics for language and new health for 
our best old memes. Lift up the tent edge and scoot inside where there is 
light and action. Strike up the band. The elfclowns of hyperspace are al- 
ready juggling in the center ring. Hurry! Hurry! 

Terence McKenna 
Occidental, California 

In Praise of Psychedelics 

ONCE upon a time, while on one of my rare excursions into 
hyperconsciousness (on this occasion via mescaline), 
someone played for me a Terence McKenna tape. I was 
transfixed. McKenna was one of the loveliest speakers I'd 
ever heard, with a lush Irish gift of gab and an extraordi- 
nary ability to turn difficult intellectual concepts into 
verbal poetry. That his subject matter was the evolution of 
consciousness of the human species, and particularly the 
role of psychedelics in that evolution, made the tape a particularly engaging 
experience in my elevated state. 

But what truly converted me into a McKenna fan was the level on which he 
explored what had been for some time one of the major strains in my own 
thinking — that history as we know it and define it is ending. This was an 
awareness that I had arrived at early in my journalistic career while research- 
ing a magazine assignment on the new psychotherapies. On a mass scale, 
were people able to break free from the psychological patterns and deadlocks of 
history, I reasoned, then all our views of human history would change and 
history as we'd learned it — the battle of nation-states, the struggles between 
classes, the endless fight for human equality — would in fact become mere foot- 
notes in the annals of the species. It seemed only a matter of a couple of cen- 

To this view McKenna resonated with extrapolations of molecular chemistry, 

This interview, done by Jay Levin, appeared in L.A. Weekly, May 20-26, 1988. 
Half of this interview was done in a Mexican restaurant in Malibu, the rest driv- 
ing on the Pacific Coast Highway in Jay's sports car. 



physics, ethnobotany, anthropology, the mathematics of chaos, Jung, McLuhan, 
and much more. And what made his talk most compelling, at least during my 
own mescaline meditation, was his argument that the species' ability (eventually) 
to transcend our own sick history stems chiefly from the impact throughout histo- 
ry of what McKenna called "botanical sliamanism." In other words, God's own 
given psychedelics— mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca, morning glories, and so on. 

McKenna, as it turns out, has never met Tim Leary, whom, it seems, he is 
about to replace as the culture's foremost spokesperson for the psychedelic ex- 
perience. Where Leary was brilliant and original in both his experimentation 
and his salesmanship, McKenna is brilliant, scholarly, and priestly (in the 
best sense of the word). In fact, though a child of the sixties, the forty-one- 
year-old McKenna came to his fascination with "ethnopharmacology," as he 
calls it, not through Leary but through the far more cautious and spiritual 
Aldous Huxley, whose Doors of Perception he read when he was fourteen. 
The son of a traveling salesman for heavy-duty electrical equipment and of a 
"housewife-mother" in a small, largely fundamentalist Colorado town, 
Paonia, McKenna recalls that the book left him "completely swept away." "I 
remember following my mother around our kitchen, telling her that if one- 
tenth of what this guy was saying was true, then this was what I wanted to do 
with my life." What in fact he has done is spend twenty years studying the 
philosophical foundations of shamanism, the use of hallucinogens in spiritual 
transformation, and the enormous impact and potential of natural hallucino- 
gens on our evolving planetary culture and emerging "metaconsciousness." 

McKen na took his first psychedelic — LSD — in the sixties at Berkeley, where 
he was a student activist in the free speech and antiwar movements. As an art 
history major at first, he participated in a special program for gifted students 
in which "the literature, art, science, mathematics, and what have you of dif- 
ferent historical periods were studied in depth." This laid the groundwork for 
what he calls his broadbrush "approach to exploring the history of human 
consciousness. " 

Halfway through college, harassed by Reagan's cops because of his barricades- 
style political activism in the student strike of 1968 at San Francisco State, 
McKenna decided a sabbatical was in order and went off to work as an art his- 
torian in Nepal, where he tried "to integrate the psychedelic experience into a 
Buddhist model." This led him to the study of Tibetan shamanism. Both cul- 
tures, he discovered, used psychoactive drugs in their explorations of con- 
sciousness — hashish and a local herb called datura. Thus began his 
investigation into the true nature of shamanism. He later finished his degree 
at the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources at Cal Berkeley, 
where, he says, he was "a self-organized major in shamanism." 



Aside from his wide knowledge, what makes McKenna fascinating is that he 
has himself experienced virtually every form of psychedelic and psychotropic 
known to or devised by man, and yet, throughout all these experiences, he has 
managed to retain the keen-eyed, scientific, intellectual observer part of his 
consciousness, which, after the experience, is able to describe its nature in the 
most extraordinarily lucid detail. He has thus experienced levels of awareness 
described by some of the great mystics of the past, but unlike most of them he 
can relate his experiences to the cultural and historical evolution of the 

These experiences have led him to one profound and overriding conclusion: the 
human species has evolved to its present dominant state through the use of nat- 
urally occurring hallucinogens and will not advance past its current primi- 
tivism and reach new dimensions of evolved consciousness without further use 
of these nature-given means of expanded consciousness. According to 
McKenna, no fan of the pop drugs — crack, smack, el al. — or pop drug use, the 
pharmacology should be entrusted to specially trained psychotherapy profes- 
sionals — the potential shamans of postmodern culture — and he is a happy cru- 
sader for the expanded legalization of the use of such materials by professionals. 

These days, when not out lecturing or searching for new natural hallucinogens 
in the rain forests of the world, McKenna divides his time between his home in 
Sonoma County and the Botanical Dimensions garden site in Hawaii — a non- 
profit effort at preserving the natural medicinal and shamanically significant 
plants of the earth from lite ravages of civilization. He lectures frequently to 
psychotherapists and is a personal consultant to some of than. 

—Jay Levin 

JL: You've implied that LSD is not truly "shamanistic"; that is, 
that it doesn't induce the higher forms of "hallucinations" or vision or 
consciousness available from natural products like psilocybin mush- 
rooms. How do you compare it to other psychedelics? 

TM: When I was young, I would take LSD once a month or so, 
but I wasn't that crazy about it. I found it abrasively psychoanalytical, 
and I also found it very hard to hallucinate. My interest in mysticism, 
art, and that sort of thing had caused me to put a very high premium on 

Then I encountered DMT [dimethyltryptamine] in early 1967. 
DMT, which is a natural plant compound that's been synthesized in the 
laboratory, is the most powerful of the psychedelics and is extremely 
short-acting. After one exposure to it, I said, "This isn't a drug, this is 
magic! This is a dimension to reality that most people never even sup- 


It was really the DMT that empowered my commitment to the 
fchedelic experience. DMT was so much more powerful, so much 
alien, raising all kinds of issues about what is reality, what is lan- 
guage, what is the self, what is three-dimensional space and time, all the 
questions I became involved with over the next twenty years or so. 

And I saw the psychedelic experience as recovering our 
birthright. The number of people and cultures that have gone to maturi- 
ty and then to death without an inkling of this is to me the most shock- 
ing thing about the human situation. Because you are not a fully 
human being in touch with the potential of reality unless you 
had a psychedelic experience. You don't have to embrace it— or 
e it— but you have to know that it exists. And there's only one way 
i know that it exists, and that's to have it. 

JL: Tim Leary was saying much the same thing in the sixties, 
[ it got him into trouble. What's the difference with you? 

TM: You know, I am very much at variance with the wisdom of 
hindsight in looking back at how Leary and Alpert and Ralph Metzner 
handled it in the sixties. But to try to launch a "children's crusade," to 
try to co-opt the destiny of the children of the middle class using the me- 
dia as your advance man, was a very risky business. And it rebounded, I 
think, badly. 

I think Huxley's approach was much more intelligent — not to try 
to reach the largest number of people, but to try to reach the most im- 
it and influential people: the poets, the architects, the politicians, 
the research scientists, and especially the psychotherapists. Because 
what we're talking about is the greatest boon to psychotherapy since 
dreaming. I often use the metaphor that psychedelics are to psychology 
what telescopes in the sixteenth century were to astronomy. If a person 
is not willing to look through the telescope he cannot call himself an as- 
tronomer. And if a person is not willing to learn the lessons of the 
psychedelic compounds, then any therapy he or she does — anything 
d ° n ? about the hum an psyche— is sand-boxed. These are the most pow- 
' agents there are for uncovering the structure and potential of the 
lan mind. 

JL: You've said psilocybin is the 
hallucinogens. What has been your experience with it? 

: of the natural 

TM: Actually my first experience with psilocybin was when I en- 
countered it in South America, in the Amazon. The DMT experience had 
acted like a compass. It said, "Ah-ha! That's where we want to go." But 
the DMT flash only lasts about three minutes, and we had the feeling — 



my brother and I — that if you could get in there for forty-five minutes, 
you could really learn something that would astonish people. And in 
fact there's no end to it. It introduces you to a world of infinite beauty 
that is cognizable by human beings. 

JL: What was' 

: like? 

TM: What was amazing about the mushrooms, and it continues 
to be amazing, is that it is animate, that there's someone talking to you. 
This was actually a voice in the head, making sense, speaking English, 
and addressing the concerns that were most important to me personally. 
I was not set up for this. 

JL: Did you recognize the voice as being different from the voice 
with which you normally talk to yourself? 

TM: Yes, and I recognized that the information was not some- 
thing that I could have come up with. That was the proof of the other- 
ness of the voice. And I think what's really happening is that a dialogue 
opens up between the ego and these larger, more integrated parts of the 
psyche that are normally hidden from view. Ego may be a fairly modern 
invention — meaning the last one or two thousand years — a fairly mod- 
ern adaptation of the psyche to its environment. One of the things hap- 
pening in the Amazon is that forest people say they enter into a group 
mind when they take ayahuasca, and on it they make decisions for the 
tribe — where to hunt, who to make war on, where to move to, these 
kinds of things. 

JL: On a visionary or an oral basis? 

TM: Visionary and oral. Collectively. They see collectively what 
is to be done. I think that this is a dissolving of the power of the ego, al- 
lowing it to contact what I call the Overmind, but what someone else 
might call the superego. In other words, this much larger, much wiser 
organizing force that we all carry around inside ourselves but, ordinari- 
ly, can access only under situations of extreme psychological pressure or 
crisis. And then there's a little flash of wisdom. Like a chemical habit, we 
are hooked on ego. And the psychedelic dissolves that chemical or psy- 
chological dependency and replaces it with the facts of the matter: how 
the individual fits into the life and organization of this planet, the vast 
amounts of time all these things have been in existence and have worked 
themselves to their present status. 

It was my reading in Jung, which happened very early, that put 
■ in touch with this notion of the self as a larger and more in- 



elusive mode of being than what the ego provides. I don't care to get into 
questions about "Is it the voice of God?" or "Is it an extraterrestrial?" I 
,'t think that these things can be known at this stage. But what is im- 
portant is that it knows more about one than one knows about oneself, 
and, consequently, it is a source of stability, a source of gnosis, a source of 
ation, and this is what most people lack. They are only superficial- 
i touch with their own destiny, their own birth, their own death. 

JL: Let's go back to the ego structure. What is the empirical evi- 
dence of its being only two thousand years old? 

TM: You must know this book by Julian Jaynes called The Origin 
ousness in the Breakdoivn of the Bicameral Mind! Well, he makes a 
very interesting case. He says that even as late as Homeric time, people 
wandered around rather automatically, and when they got into a very 
tight spot, suddenly there would be a voice in their head saying, "You're 
in a right spot. Here's what you should do." They called this God, or a 
god, or the king (living or dead). This became the ego, the voice we now 
call "me," something that has been assimilated in the wake of civiliza- 
tion as a necessary means of adapting to socialization. Now, coming out 
of the linear and dualist kinds of structures that were put on us by 
Christianity and print media and a number of cultural factors, we need 
to reconnect with the next level of the Overmind — a globally conscious, 
ecologically sensitive, balanced, human, caring kind of consciousness 
that we can access only with considerable effort, through self-discipline, 
psychotherapy, psychedelics, this kind of thing. 

JL: In studying spiritual systems and drugs did you find drug 
taking among the Tibetan Buddhists? 

TM-. Not so much among the Buddhists, but I found myself 
spending more and more time with the pre-Buddhist shamans. And 
then I went to India. I had studied yoga, but what the yogic texts don't 
tell you is that almost all sadhus, all yogis, are inveterate hash smokers 
and /or users of datura and were at that time, in the late sixties, abso- 
lutely fascinated by LSD and the psychedelic drugs coming from the 

JL: Among the pre-Buddhist shamans was there drug use? 

TM: Well, I don't think that there is really any difference. That is, 
if you study shamanism carefully, most shamanism that is vital is hallu- 
ic-plant shamanism. 



JL: How did the level of mystical awareness and manifestation 
of the shamans compare with the ashram gurus of India? 

TM: As an anarchist and skeptic, I saw India basically as a very 
stratified kind of con game. I am no fan of gurus. I think that they have 
done quite enough for us, thank you, and that it is nothing that sophisti- 
cated people need to have anything to do with. Now I am not saying 
that there aren't people who have the wisdom that life confers, who can 
tell you how to live, how to die, how to carry on a relationship, have a 
child, and so forth and so on. But psychedelics address the unseen side 
of reality, the utterly Other, the transcendentally alien, and that is what 
interests me. Because if you look at classical descriptions of God, 
whether you're talking about the Kabbalah or Christian mysticism or 
Sufi mysticism, what you're always talking about is the unspeakable. 
And psychedelics propel you through your local language and into this 
unimaginable realm. 

People need to be empowered, and you're not empowered by 
placing your spiritual development in the hands of a guru. You're spiri- 
tually empowered by taking responsibility for your spiritual develop- 
ment, by looking around and seeing what can be done. In a way, I see 
the entire New Age as a flight from the psychedelic experience. People 
will do anything other than take a psychedelic compound. Be rebirthed, 
Rolfed, this, that, and the other thing. Because they instinctively sense 
that the psychedelic experience is real. It puts you on the line. It isn't like 
a five-hour drumming session, or deep-tissue work. 

So the issue finally comes down to the citizen versus the self. The 
citizen is an extremely limited definition of human potential. The self is 
a definition of human potential so broad that it threatens the obligations 
of the citizen. 

JL: What does life look like to the fully self-realized person? 

TM: Well, I certainly don't consider myself to be one, so I can 
only begin to answer. To me life looks extremely hopeful. The human 
potential is so vast. We don't have any problems that we cannot solve by 
applying ourselves to them with open minds. Now, you see, the current 
theory of problem solving is that we must solve all our problems with 
solutions that make a buck. Well, it just may not be possible to solve the 
problems of the twentieth century and make a buck at the same time. 
But if we're willing to put aside that notion, then the human future ap- 
pears endlessly bright, because the human mind appears to be a much 
more open pipeline to God than anyone who is outside the psychedelic 
experience could ever imagine. And God appears to be a much more 



benevolent and involved force in human affairs than the kind of image 
that we have inherited from Western religion. 

Now, why should taking a natural psychedelic drug compound 
like psilocybin give you hope? It's because it connects you up with the 
real network of values and information inherent in the planet, the values 
of biology, the values of organism, rather than the values of the con- 

JL: What are those planetary values? 

TM: Well, life comes first. Death is nothing to be afraid of; it's a 
natural part of the process. Sexuality is the glory of the living experi- 
ence, and so forth and so on. They are, in fact, the humane, caring, eco- 
logically sensitive values that are attempted to be communicated by the 
New Age, by the ecology movement, and so on. The problem is that 
these movements politicize everything immediately, turn everything 
into agendas, turn the opposition into the enemy, then embark on the 
old-style primate politics that have led us into this impasse. 

JL Patriarchal politics? 

TM: Patriarchal politics. The politics of propaganda. The politics 
of money. The politics of hopelessness. I am a political activist, but I 
think that the first duty of a political activist is to become psychedelic. 
Otherwise you're not making your moves cognizant of the entire field of 
action. This is the thing: the importance of human values has to be 
brought back into the discussion of political priorities. This was attempt- 
ed in the sixties; now it's presented as a joke that people would ever 
stand up and say that love is the answer. It's inconceivable in the present 

JL: It would be useful at this point if you would define shaman- 

TM: Okay. Shamanism is use of the archaic techniques of ecstasy 
that were developed independent of any religious philosophy — the em- 
pirically validated, experientially operable techniques that produce ec- 
stasy. Ecstasy is the contemplation of wholeness. That's why when you 
experience ecstasy — when you contemplate wholeness — you come 
down remade in terms of the political and social arena because you have 
seen the larger picture. 

JL: How is it manifested in shamanic acts? 



TM: Through the ability to cure, the shaman can confer psycho- 
logical wholeness on the people who come to him with problems. He 
acts as an exemplar. He is like a superhuman person, simply by virtue of 
the fact that he is together, he is not confused. He knows when to hang 
on and when to let go. What erodes hope is inertia and the momentum 
of negative psychological activity. What the shaman sees is that the mo- 
mentum of negative activity is, in fact, an illusion. And by simply chang- 
ing your mind, you just step aside and the momentum sweeps past you 
and you are transformed. So it is the form of the mind that the shaman 
works with: he has a larger view because he is not really in his culture. I 
found this over and over again. Each culture has its own peculiarities 
and assumptions and phobias and faux pas. The shaman may appear to 
be a member of the culture, but he's broader, deeper, higher, and wider 
than the culture that created him. 

A great psychotherapist to my mind would be a great shaman— 
and there are some very good ones. I don't want to name names because 
I don't want to leave anyone feeling hurt. I admire transpersonal psy- 
chotherapists. I think they are trying to remake the shamanistic institu- 
tion in a modern form. What they have to realize is that they're wasting 
their time unless they use the shamanistic tools. And the foremost tool of 
the shamans is the technique of ecstasy, and that means the hallucino- 
genic plants. If you suggested to a South American shaman that he 
could do without the plants, it would be absurd, like suggesting to a 
stunt flier that he do it without an airplane. And we are moving toward 
the brink of global catastrophe without using the tools present at hand 
that might save us. That's stupid. Plain and simple, stupid. 

JL: What's your sense of Western culture now? 

TM: Well, I think we're entering into a further narrowing of op- 
tions. Eager as I am to put the Reagan era behind me, the first half of the 
nineties will be a further exploration of these screwy cultural modes: 
fundamentalist religion, sexual repression, collapse of central authority. 
The AIDS epidemic is playing right into the hands of the people who 
want to repress and distort human misery. I think that there is a New 
Age about to dawn. I think that it will come, but I think it will come in 
the late nineties, that we still have much to go through. Because the cul- 
tural institutions will not reach for the emergency brake until things are 
really cracking to pieces. Because, you know, the present form of civi- 
lization represents a sinking ship. 

JL: On the other hand, one could argue that the collective mind 
has already made collective decisions about collective healing, that the 
ocess and the climb toward collective consciousness is alread 



• on. In other words, that the psychoanalytic movement, the spiritu- 
1 movement (such as it is), the ecology movement, the cultural rebel- 
-all this, in fact, is the basis for profound positive change, 
lelics played a part in this, and they continue to play a role, but 
i can't expect this culture to move into mass psychedelics. 

TM: I think that's true. I'm not concerned. I think we're fine. 
Everything is right on track, developing the way that it should. The trick 
is to know that, so that one can contribute to it, rather than being frozen 
anxiety. I make the analogy to a birth. A birth looks like something 
unnatural; somebody's being split apart, and there's a lot of blood, guts, 
and gore. You'd swear that this is death, not life. But in fact, it's a com- 
pletely natural process. The goal then is to reassure the mother so that 
realizes this is natural, this is going to have a termination, that it is 
S of the plan. 

JL: How many times have you taken LSD? 

TM: Well, if you put them all together ... I don't know, maybe 
150 times when I was young. Not a lot. I think that if you do these things 
it, they give you plenty to think about. One thing that people do that 
I'm definitely opposed to is to diddle with it. If you're not taking so much 
that going into it you're afraid you did too much, then you didn't do 
enough. Not the way people will take it to go to the movies, go to the 
beach, this and that. No, I talk about what I call "heroic" doses and 
"committed" doses. And if you only do heroic doses, then every trip will 
count. You won't have to do it more than three or four times a year to 
feel fully psychedelic. 

JL: What is a heroic dose of psilocybin? 

TM: Five dried grams. Five dried grams will flatten the most re- 
sistant ego. 

JL: And mescaline? 

TM: Eight hundred milligrams. I'm less fond of mescaline be- 
cause it's an amphetamine. And it's rough on you. 

JL: Andpeyote? 

TM: Well, I can give it to you in a nutshell. There are three ques- 
tions that you should ask yourself about a drug you're considering tak- 
Number one, does it occur naturally in 



Because nature has use-tested these compounds over millions and mil- 
lions of years. Something that came out of the laboratory four or five 
years ago— who knows? So it should be a product of the natural world. 
Number two, does it have a history of human usage? Mushrooms do. 
Mescaline does. LSD doesn't. Ecstasy doesn't. And number three, and 
most important, it should have some affinity to brain chemistry. It 
shouldn't be just like landing on the moon; it should be related to what 
is driving ordinary consciousness. This last criteria is the most narrow, 
because mescaline won't get through that. LSD won't get through that. I 
think that drugs should be as noninvasive as possible, and I know I'm 
on the right track because the strongest psychedelic drugs there are are 
the ones that last the shortest amount of time. Now, what does that 
mean? It means that your brain recognizes the compound and within a 
few minutes can completely neutralize it. DMT is the strongest 
psychedelic there is, yet it lasts only five minutes. Twenty minutes after 
you do it, it's like you never did it at all. 

Nature is the great guide in all of this. The natural chemistry of 
the brain. The natural history of the planet. The naturally evolved 
shamanic institutions of small groups of human beings that are still in 
touch with reasonable social values. 

JL: Let's talk about schematic definitions of your various experi- 
ences. I've heard you speak about something that brought you closest to 
what Gnostics and Kabbalists call the Logos, the ultimate source of all 
knowledge. If you made a chart of the levels of the unconscious you've 
experienced, how would you schematize it? 

TM: I guess this is how I'd schematize it: Psilocybin "speaks." 
The speaking voice of psilocybin is absolutely extraordinary. DMT com- 
bines the speaking voice and the seeing eye — the most extraordinary 
thing about the DMT experience is that you see entities. You encounter 
beings whom I've described as self-transforming machine elves. They 
are the denizens of this other dimension. They are trying to teach some- 
thing. Well, if I'm not completely mad, then it's big news. Straight peo- 
ple — skeptical people — if given DMT will be conveyed to what is 
essentially the hall of the Mountain King with gnome revelry in 
progress. We're not prepared for this. We expect everything to fall into 
the rational maps that science has given us, and science doesn't de- 
scribe a hyperdimensional universe teeming with alien intelligences 
that can be contacted within a moment if you have recourse to a certain 
chemical compound. Science is hard-pressed to admit that light-years 
away, there might be beings living on planets in orbit around another 



JL: What already existing metaphysical map would describe 
this? Would the Sufi experience be close to it? 

TM: I think of Mahayana Buddhism, the multileveled, many- 
inhabited, demon-haunted, Buddha-haunted realms of peace and joy. 
The insistence of Mahayana Buddhism that there is really no center, that 
everything is a construct of time and space, is the most sophisticated 
psychology. But I'm not willing to climb aboard the Buddhist ethic be- 
cause Buddhism says suffering is inevitable. That's not a psychedelic 
point of view. I think that the psychology of Buddhism is the older stra- 
ta, and that arises out of shamanism. Shamanism worldwide insists that 
the universe is multileveled, populated by beings that can do you great 
good, do you great harm. And beings who don't give a hoot about you, 
one way or the other. 

JL: While we are on the track of exploring existing cosmologies, 
how do you see the Christ mind? I'm talking about the Christ mind as 
the Heart mind. 

TM: This is sort of a problematic area for me. I would think that 
if you wanted to talk about the heart opening, the rebirth of the Goddess 
is a more viable metaphor. The problem with Christianity is it's the sin- 
gle most reactionary force in human history. I don't even know what is 
in second place, it's so far in front. And I believe that the destruction of 
paganism was probably the greatest disservice to the evolution of the 
human psyche that has ever been done. The repression of witchcraft is 
really the repression of botanical knowledge, of shamanism. So I see 
Christianity as part of this paternalistic shell game. 

JL: You seem to infer that the highest shamanism is plant 
shamanism, and that paganism represents a higher form of conscious- 
ness because it is in touch with beings of another level. But in Jewish 
spiritual practice, through combined study of the Kabbalah and the 
Torah, there's demonstrable evidence of the ability to attain high de- 
grees of shamanistic power without the use of drugs. Kabbalists also rec- 
ognize the pagan level as one level of higher consciousness that, while 
achievable and while real, is not the highest or most transcendent or 
closest to God. The promise is that combined Kabbalah-Torah study can 
take you to a much greater dimension than drugs— or any form of 

TM: I am not familiar with Jewish mysticism, but I do know it is 
powerful. My feeling is that abstractions of the kind represented by 



Kabbalistic theory suck immediacy from experience and are part of the 

ence, Aristotelian theory, dualism, materialism, and so forth. 

JL: You think you've gotten from your visions some sense of the 
nature of where we are going, but is there, in fact, a "choice point," a 
moment when the individual — or the species collectively— has to make 
a choice about this direction rather than that? Or is it simply that there is 
a direction of history in which we are naturally going? 

TM: The thing is, reality itself is not static. This is one of the 
things that the psychedelic is trying to put across, that the reality we're 
embedded in is itself some kind of an organism and is evolving toward a 
conclusion. Twentieth-century history is not simply a fluke or an anoma- 
ly — it is the culmination of a process that has been in motion for as long 
as the planet has been in existence. We are not alienated and outside of 
nature; we are somehow the cutting edge of it. And this vast output of 
buildings and highways and all the things that characterize the modern 
world is actually a feature of the natural world. Similarly, the evolution 
of technical intelligence on the surface of the planet, while new, is not 

Human beings are therefore the natural agents for a compression 
that is building up in the temporal world toward transition into some 
higher dimension of existence. History is going to end. This is the aston- 
ishing conclusion that I draw out of the psychedelic experience. And all 
the scenarios of history's ending that haunt human thinking on the mat- 
ter, ranging from the Apocalypse of John down to the latest prophecies 
of the flying saucer cults, are attempts to grasp or come to grips with an 
intuition of transcendental departure from business as usual. 

Looking at present cultural trends and extrapolating them, it's 
reasonable to suggest that by the end of the Mayan calendar — which is 
in 2012 A.D. — we will be unrecognizable to ourselves, that what we take 
to be our creations, computers and technology, are actually another level 
of ourselves. And that when we have worked out this peregrination 
through the profane labyrinth of history, we will recover what we knew 
in the beginning: the archaic union with nature that was seamless, un- 
mediated by language, unmediated by notions of self and other, of life 
and death, of civilization and nature. These are all dualisms that are 
temporary and provisional within the labyrinth of history. This Archaic 
Revival means that all our religions were pale imitations of the Mystery 
itself. Then people will say, "Now I understand! Now I understand why 
the pyramids, why the fall of Rome, why Auschwitz, why the H-bomb." 
All these things are signposts on the way to the transcendental object. 
And once we reach it, meaning will flood the entire human experience. 



JL: But to see people so transformed, so back in tune with na- 
ture on a mass level, would mean we were collectively prepared to put 
such low-consciousness matters as planetary pollution or the Arab- 
Israeli struggle behind us virtually overnight. For that to happen, 
wouldn't there have to be some kind of transcendent event? A visit from 
a flying saucer? Nuclear warfare? I don't know, I'm trying to remain a 

TM: It seems highly improbable that such a thing would occur. 
However, look at something like the phenomenon of language in our 
species. How probable was that before it existed? It represents some 
kind of intersection of the monkey species with a transcendental force of 
some sort. And yet, once it came into existence, it is seen to be inherent 
in our biological organization. 

JL: Nothing in your drug i 
single shamanic event might be? 

:xperiences has shown you what that 

TM: I think that it could be something like this: The transcenden- 
tal object, which has been well described since the sixteenth century, is 
the union of spirit and matter. The transcendental object is matter that be- 
haves like thought, and it is a doorway into the imagination. This is 
where we're all going to live. This is why the psychedelic experience is so 
important, because it anticipates a life lived entirely in the imagination. 
Now you ask, "How could such a thing be?" Well, as just one hy- 
s: Suppose a way were found to integrate human and machine 
ligence to create a culture in which humans and machines were psy- 
ally indistinguishable. This would allow us to influence the di- 
sions of that interaction. If we're creating another dimension, it 
light as well be paradise. So what today we contemplate as a transcen- 
dental object may be a salable technology by 2012. 

JL: In other words, you're saying that the transcendent event 
might conceivably be the creation by 2012 of a computer program that 
we would interact with to bring us to a heightened state of existence? 
Maybe one created by a genius computer programmer and metaphysi- 
cian while tripping on psilocybin? 

TM: Yes, a computer program. The two concepts, drugs and com- 
puters, are migrating toward each other. If you add in the concept "per- 
son" and say these three concepts — drugs, computer, and person — are 
migrating toward each other, then you realize that the monkey body is 
still holding a lot of our linguistic structure in place. But if the monkey 
were to be dissolved, then we would be much more likely to de- 



fine ourselves as pure information. I think this is what is happening — 
that beyond 2012, everybody becomes everything. All possibilities are 
realized, even possibilities that are mutually exclusive. Because the reso- 
lution and the realization of these possibilities occurs in a different kind 
of space — "nanotechnological" space or psychological space, or a true 
hyperdimension. It's very hard to imagine what it will be like, because 
we simply do not have the metaphors and the experience to cognize 
what we are moving toward. 

JL: I assume you don't mean a literal end to the monkey body 
but a transcendence of the way we see and use the body. I assume you 
don't think we won't have sex and procreation? 

TM: Of course. We will have everything that we have now. 

JL: Can you conceptualize — or visualize— the nature of a com- 
puter program that would facilitate this higher-consciousness process? 

TM: Well, I have actually developed a piece of software that I 
call Timewave Zero. It's a fractal wave, a mechanical description of time 
that shows that all times are actually interference patterns created by 
other times interacting with each other and that all of these times origi- 
nate from a single end state. Advanced versions of this kind of program 
could be created in the twenty-four years we have left until 2012. 

This isn't something human beings have to decide to do — this is 
something that is happening! The trick is to figure out what's going to 
happen that allows you to relate. The psychedelics help to do this be- 
cause they anticipate the transcendental object. All religions anticipate 
the transcendental object. All great spiritual personalities, somehow, an- 
ticipate and embody the transcendental object. This is no longer cen- 
turies or millennia away. It is right here, right now. It is what explains 
the precipitous drop into novelty that the twentieth century represents. 
The twentieth century does not make any sense whatsoever unless it 
ends in a complete transformation of the species. And the nuclear death 
and the life-affirming factors are so inextricably intertwined that it will 
remain a horse race right up until the last moment. 

In one of my lectures, I asked, "What mushroom is it that blooms 
at the end of human history? Is it the mushroom of Teller and Fermi and 
Oppenheimer, or is it the mushroom of Albert Hofmann and Gordon 
Wasson and Richard Evans Schultes and Timothy Leary?" I believe that 
it will be very hard for people who are not insiders to figure out where to 
place their bets. But the very fact that you and I can have this conversa- 
tion is proof of the nearness of this event. People couldn't say these 



things even thirty years ago — no one would understand. You know, in 
testing high-performance aircraft there's an expression "stretching the 
envelope," meaning pushing the performance capabilities to the absolute 
outer limits. This is what the twentieth century is doing to the planet and 
the human organism. We are stretching the envelope as we approach, not 
the sound barrier but the . . . call it the "mind barrier," the "social barri- 
er." We will not disintegrate when we reach it and fall out of the sky. 
Instead, if we have designed our social spaceship correctly, we will slip 
right on through into an infinite realm of potential human becoming. 

JL: Certainly urban culture isn't going to disappear. 

TM: No, but a new design process of that culture will arise out of 
the clear perception of human needs rather than the present unclear and 
politically arguable perception of human beings. We're basically bump- 
ing along not in a Model-T Ford but in a Roman chariot. And we have 
twenty-four years to rum that into a starship. That's why it is so impor- 
tant to communicate, for all of us to put our best foot forward, to put our 
best metaphors on the table. Because we can move no faster than the 
evolution of our language. And this is certainly part of what the 
psychedelics are about: they force the evolution of language. And no cul- 
ture, so far as I am aware, has ever consciously tried to evolve its lan- 
guage with the awareness that evolving language was evolving reality. 
And yet, we are on the brink of that. Madison Avenue understands that, 
but in a perverse way. If we can get away from the idea of making a 
buck, get into the idea of using this idea to save our skins, then the tran- 
scendental object moves that much nearer. 

The strange thing about psilocybin, my career, and this conversa- 
tion is that it has to do with the empowerment of language. That's what 
gives me my cachet, why people say, "You say things that nobody else 
ever says," "You speak clearly." The social consequence of the 
psychedelic experience is clear thinking— which trickles down as clear 
speech. Empowered speech. 

JL: What if you're wrong and the world still has so much sick- 
ness in 2012? 

TM: Well, at least I had the courage to make a specific prophecy. 
I'll be sixty-five in 2012, time to cash it in anyway. 

JL: Speaking of empowered speech, one of your raps that I 
found particularly perspicacious was about the octopus as the symbol of 
the dawning age. Want to explain? 


TM: What is not well known is the communication model that is 
happening in the octopus. Octopi change their color not for camouflage 
purposes, as might be supposed, but as a mode of communication. The 
blushes, spots, and traveling bands of color that an ordinary octopus can 
manifest are reflective of its linguistic intent. Its language appears on the 
surface of its skin. 

Ordinarily, telepathy is imagined to be you hearing me think, 
then me hearing you think. But a richer notion of telepathy would be if 
you could see my words, rather than hear them — if they were actually 
sculptural objects. I would make an utterance, then you and I would 
stand and regard this utterance from all angles. There would be no am- 
biguity. And this is exactly what is going on with the octopi. Shamans 
do the same thing. These shamanistic songs that are sung are not intend- 
ed to be heard, they are intended to be seen by other people who are in- 
toxicated. This crossing from the heard to the seen is a very important 
part of the revelation of the transcendental object. 

We are going to go from a linguistic mode that is heard to a lin- 
guistic mode that is beheld. When this transition is complete, the ambi- 
guity, the uncertainty, and the subterfuge that haunt our efforts at 
communication will be obsolete. And it will be in this environment of 
beheld communication that the new world of the Logos will be realized. 

JL: And MTV and the computers are just rushing us there? 

TM: Yes, they're pushing us right there. 

JL: The metaphysical experiences always promise that once the 
ego is dropped, and true knowledge is arrived at, that in fact you begin 
to experience reality through the embodiment of God — which is suppos- 
edly yourself. And that that embodiment is joy and love, a profundity of 
pleasure, experiential awareness, consciousness, and radiance beyond 
what most people have ever experienced on the most profound levels. 
How does that integrate with your sensibility? 

TM: My notion of the posttransition felt experience is that it is a 
domain where appropriate activity is the path of least resistance. In oth- 
er words, in this current realm Tao and ego seem impossibly opposed. 
Things are either one or the other. In the posttransition world, it's possi- 
ble that there will appear to be only ego, and there will actually be only 
Tao. And that's a good working definition of what a telepathic society 
would be like: appropriate activity. It's nothing more than that. 

Imagine if every problem were solved appropriately, if every re- 
lationship evolved appropriately, if every act were an appropriate one. 



alone would be the kingdom of heaven. And that is, I think, what 
w e're pushing toward. Not cosmic fireworks or the descent of alien be- 
ings in flying saucers, but simply appropriate activity— empowered, felt 
experience — and the abandonment of the illusion of separateness. 

High Frontiers Interview 

N: I WONDER if you could share with us the 
experience that shaped your life and work, your 
journey to the Amazon Basin. 

WTM: Certainly. There have actually been a 
number of journeys to the Amazon that I have 
participated in— the earliest in 1971, the most re- 
cent in 1981. In 1981, a joint ethnobotanical expe- 
dition composed of people from Harvard and the University of British 
Columbia went to Iquitos in the far east of Peru. My brother was also 
part of that expedition. He is an ethnochemist at the University of British 
Columbia. We were looking at ayahuasca, which is a hallucinogenic bev- 
erage taken over a very wide area in the lowland jungles of Ecuador, 
Colombia, and Peru. We were also looking at a very little-studied hallu- 
cinogen called oo-koo-hey or kuri-coo, which is used by the Witoto, Boro, 
and Muinane people. In both cases these hallucinogenic drugs are based 
on DMT or DMT in combination with some other chemical that potenti- 
ates the experience. These are probably the two least studied of the hal- 
lucinogens, although ayahuasca is a major folk religion over a very large 
area. It is involved in shamanic curing and is very familiar to the poor 
classes of the lowland jungles of Peru and well known to the mestizo 
populations. Kuri-coo is a much less-known substance. We were study- 
ing it because the orthodox pharmacological theories say that it should 
not be orally active, yet it is. So there was a scientific problem there to 
deal with. 

Will Noffke's interview with me appeared in High Frontiers, no. 1, 1984. The 


WN: Something of discovering a new reality for science? 

TM: Well, you have to have a scientific problem to center these 
expeditions. Then what you actually brush up against is the phe- 
nomenology of the drug — the drug as it is experienced — and this is far 
removed from the pharmacological issues that are being sorted out now 
in the laboratory. But the experience of taking these drugs in the 
Amazon, up small tributaries that run into the main body of the river, 
among preliterate people who are definitely not middle-class, and in the 
ambiance of the equatorial continental jungles, was very interesting, 
very enlightening. 

WN: How did you respond to that? I assume that you'd experi- 
mented with other hallucinogens in the recent past before you made that 
journey, and that indeed you were looking for the effect, the psy- 
chophysical response in yourself. Yet apparently you came upon some- 
thing quite unexpected. 

TM: Yes. Since the mid-sixties we had been interested in 
dimethyltryptamine, DMT, because of both the experience and its rapid 
onset. When DMT is smoked, it comes on in about fifteen to thirty sec- 
onds. The content of the experience seemed to go beyond the orthodox 
model of what the psychedelic experience should constitute. In other 
words, the psychedelic experience has been discussed in terms of con- 
sciousness expansion, or exploring the contents of the personal or collec- 
tive unconscious, or achieving great empathy with works of art, and 
things of that sort. What we found with the tryptamines was that there 
seemed to be an unanticipated dimension that involved contact with an 
alien intelligence. I call it this for want of a better description. Organized 
entelechies presented themselves in the psychedelic experience with in- 
formation that seemed not to be drawn from the personal history of the 
individual or even from the collective human experience. Later, we came 
to feel that this effect was unique to the tryptamine hallucinogens. In 
other words, not only DMT and ayahuasca and the more exotic 
Amazonian substances, but also psilocybin, which is probably the most 
widely experienced of these drugs. To me it was astonishing that a voice 
could address you in that state and impart information in a dialogue. 
Gordon Wasson, who discovered the psilocybin mushroom and brought 
it formally to the attention of Western science, also wrote about this phe- 
nomenon. So did Plato in discussing the importance of the Logos for 
Hellenistic religion. 

This experience of an interior guiding voice with a higher level of 
knowledge is not alien in Western history; however, the intellectual ad- 


posterous if not psychopathological. So as moderns and as pharmacolo- 
gists exploring these states, my brother and I came upon this phe- 
nomenon. In the ensuing years we've worked with it and directed 
others' attention to it; I would say a consensus has emerged that this is 
real. But a consensus has yet to emerge about exactly what it is. Are we 
dealing with an aspect, an autonomous psychic entity, as the Jungians 
would style it — a subself that has slipped away from the control of the 
ego? Or are we dealing with something like a species Overmind — a kind 
of collective entelechy? Or are we in fact dealing with an alien intelli- 
gence with all that this implies? It's not an easy question to answer. It's 
not even an easy question to grapple with, because the phenomenon 
does not manifest itself except at heroic doses. 

WN: There are certain parallels that are quite obvious, and one of 
them that comes to mind is Saint Joan hearing voices and gaining direc- 
tion. Granted, she was a farm girl, and perhaps she was growing mush- 
rooms in the backyard. Throughout history there seems to be the 
hearing of voices within the realms of religious experience and it is al- 
ways attributed to "god," whatever that image is for the individual who 
is experiencing it. That experience does not, well, necessarily come from 
the ingestion of any drug. It can come through some other aspect of al- 
tering human consciousness. 

TM: Right. It always arises through a shift in the interior chem- 
istry of the body and the brain. But this can be induced by plants or 
stress, or a person or family line can simply have a predilection for these 
states. You're quite right, religion as understood in premodern terms is 
essentially humans' response to the problem of interior prompting, but 
enough people have it that it is a culture-shaping phenomenon, if not, in 
fact, a culture-steering phenomenon. 

Unfortunately, religion for the past five hundred years has been a 
hierarchical pyramid at whose top were theologians interpreting dogma. 
This interpretation was handed down through a hierarchy to the faith- 
ful. I think religious hierarchies are very unsettled by the idea of direct 
revelation. Nevertheless, this phenomenon is certainly thriving in pre- 
literate cultures all over the world. We discovered in dealing with this 
that the only people you could talk to about it or who seemed to have fa- 
miliarity with it were shamans. 

And they say, "Yes. Of course. This is how information is ob- 
tained: from helping spirits or hindering spirits in that dimension." The 
idea of autonomous alien intelligences contacted in the mental dimen- 
sion seems to them commonplace. I think it probably is. I think that 
culture has taken a long, idiosyncratic detour away 


something. In fact, we do not represent the pinnacle of understanding of 
the nature of reality. We have very interesting maps of, say, the heart of 
the atom or the far reaches of the universe, but in the areas closest to 
home — our own minds, our own experiences of ourselves and each oth- 
er—I believe these primitive cultures, by being phenomenological and 
by not being encumbered by technical apparatus or abstract theories 
of what's going on, come closer to the mark. In other words, they are 
folk psychiatrists, folk psychoanalysts who leave us far behind. 
Anthropologists have commented on the absence of serious mental dis- 
ease in many preliterate cultures. I believe that the mediation of the 
shaman and through him the contact to the centering Logos, this source 
of information or gnosis, is probably the cause of this ability to heal or 
minimize psychological disorders. 

WN: You mentioned something in relation to organized religion. 
I think Western Christianity has been very successful at establishing its 
turf by instilling fear, doubt, and suspicion of anything that comes from 
inner sources. It's established a criteria that says, "If it isn't in the scrip- 
tures, it is to be ignored and suspected as being from a dark force." 
ere is a distinct denial of the validity of personal experience. I find 
a great many people look at the psychedelic experience as highly 
suspect, highly dangerous, and uncontrollable. How have you found 
people deal with this? 

TM: It's uncontrollable to the degree that it is not well under- 
stood. These preliterate cultures have an unbroken tradition of shamanic 
understanding and ethnomedicine that reaches back to Paleolithic times 
and beyond. We have nothing comparable. So people in our culture who 
get into deep water with these plants, whom do they rum to? Whom do 
ask with certain knowledge? In Peru, we saw people who were 
naive about ayahuasca. People who had come from Lima for the experi- 
ence got to the place where they were definitely having a bad trip. But 
the shaman is able to come over to them and blow tobacco smoke over 
them and chant — things that appear to us to be symbolic but that never- 
theless act with the same efficacy as if the person had received a shot of 
Demerol. So one man's symbolism is another man's technology. This 
should be kept in mind when dealing with these cultures. How things 
appear to us may not be how they appear to the people who are en- 
meshed in them. Unless you shed your language and enter into these 
cultures entirely, you will always have the point of view of a stranger 
and an outsider. 

WN: Even in that aspect of society that might be categorized as 
New Age, for want of a better term, where there's a great deal of break- 



ing away from dogmatic upbringing and movement into direct experi- 
ence, the psychedelic experience is suspect. So such things as working 
with the kundalini, hypnosis, mantras, and physical activities — psycho- 
physical manipulations of consciousness — seem to be safe ground and 
acceptable as areas for investigation. But I see this incredible bias against 
using chemical means, even the organic ones you speak of. 

TM: I think there's a very strong Calvinistic bias against a free 
lunch. The idea that you could achieve a spiritual insight without suffer- 
ing, soul-searching, flagellation, and that sort of thing, is abhorrent to 
people because they believe that the vision of these higher dimensions 
should be vouchsafed to the good, and probably to them only after 
death. It is alarming to people to think that they could take a substance 
like psilocybin or DMT and have these kinds of experiences. 
Nevertheless, it is a fact of reality that we are only now beginning to 
come to terms with. I don't believe that these things are a substitute for 
spiritual practice. On the other hand, I don't believe that spiritual prac- 
tice could ever be a substitute for these experiences. I scoured India and 
Indonesia and a number of other places and found these traditions you 
mentioned, including the Tantra of kundalini, the trance dancing in Bali, 
under the control of priests and embedded in traditions in which you 
have to accept the mind-set to have the experience. They are very elu- 
sive. The drug experience, on the other hand, is not. It is overpowering. 
Certainly with the tryptamines there is nothing elusive. It is the great 
convincer. These things are going to have to be integrated into the cul- 
ture without a sense of guilt and with a sense that they point the way to- 
ward something. I think Aldous Huxley called them "gratuitous 
graces," explaining that they were neither necessary nor sufficient for 
salvation, but they were, nevertheless, a miracle. 

WN: You make a strong point for set and setting as part of the 
experience — that they are not to be taken lightly or used recreationally 
and that they need to be dealt with in respect. And that it is preferable to 
have someone available to serve as a guide. I'll also be interviewing 
Timothy Leary. I'm not quite sure of his attitude, whether it's one of fun 
and games at any cost, or whether it is intensely serious. 

TM: I think he is a man who probably has had ample opportunity 
to change his mind. The euphoria of the sixties, the assumption of the in- 
tellectuals around Huxley and Humphrey Osmond that all that needed 
to be done was to lay this before the people and humanity would trans- 
form itself, was terribly naive. Nevertheless, people had never stood at a 
cultural crossroads quite like that. I hear people saying there may be an- 


other pass at the psychedelic experience as a social phenomenon. I cer- 
tainly hope if there is that those of us who went through the 1960s will 
have processed that experience and learned the lessons from it. I think 
these things should not be done in large groups. 

The most fruitful way to approach the psychedelic experience is 
in the environment almost, though not formally, of sensory deprivation. 
Lie down in complete darkness and silence and watch the back of your 
eyelids. I'm amazed how exotic this advice seems to be to other people. 
It is common sense that would lead you to do that. After all, you're try- 
ing to observe a mental phenomenon. To see the mental phenomenon 
uncontaminated by outside sources of information, you must put your- 
self in a situation where it can fully manifest itself. At the effective doses 
of these substances, I guarantee anyone that it is not going to be a boring 
experience. Perhaps too many people have meditated and so they imag- 
ine that it is like meditation. It is the exact antithesis of meditation. It is, 
in fact, to leave your body and to joumey into mental space — which is 
an area at least as large as outer space. The distinction between these 
two may be cultural convention. You journey into a deployed field of in- 
formation that appears to be light-years in extent. This can only be done 
if the exterior input has been brought to a minimum. Then you see what 
Blake saw and what Meister Eckhart saw, what St. John of the Cross 
saw. You may not be able to bring to bear on these things the kind of in- 
sight they did, but on the other hand no one can measure the ocean, not 
Meister Eckhart or anybody else. It is not easy to measure the ocean, but 
we can be measured by it, confront it, and be in it. 

I think these substances have had, are having, and will have a 
great impact on human history. They may in fact be the cause of human 
history. We're so familiar with the doctrine of evolution — the idea that 
we descended from the apes— that we tend to overlook how odd a crea- 
ture man really is. Man is a very odd creature. And to have arisen in a 
million years from the chipping of flint to the launching of the space 
shuttle and the hurling of instruments out of the solar system, it seems 
preposterous to maintain that the forces and facts of nature as we know 
them could have allowed us to do what we are doing. Instead, I take a 
very premodem view: we are in league with the demiurge. We are the 
children of a force that we can barely imagine. It is calling us out of the 
trees and across the plains of history toward itself. This process is taking 
ten, twenty, one hundred thousand years — an instant. The lifetimes of 
many individuals come and go, but nature acts from the point of view of 
the species, and, on that scale, hardly a moment has passed since there 
was nothing happening on this planet except the chipping of flint and 
pharmacology. Pharmacology preceded agriculture because the proper- 
ties of plants were understood long before the husbandry of plants was 



understood. The visions conveyed on psilocybin— visions of enormous 
machines in orbit and distant planets and strange creatures and vast 
biomechanistic landscapes — can hardly be processed. You don't know 
whether you are walking around inside an enormous instrument or or- 
ganism. We are barely able to assimilate these things. Yet these visions 
are the current guiding image, being released into historical time. As it 
released the differential calculus a couple of hundred years ago; as it re- 
leased all the great advances in human history. The history of scientific 
or technical advances has the character of revelation. The people who 
have the real breakthroughs always say, "It was just handed to me one 
morning; it was there." Descartes invented the calculus while lying in 
bed one morning. Newton was doing the same thing a few hundred 
miles away, and they didn't even know each other. Over the millennia 
there has been a dialogue between the individual self and the Other, be- 
tween the collective self and the Other. We have called this God. Priests 
have gotten control of it and freighted it down with all kinds of thou- 
shalts and thou-shalt-nots, but the real religious experience is not about 
that. It is about the dialogue with the Logos and where it can lead you 
and what it can show you. So now, when we as a species are about to 
leave or destroy the planet, the Logos reemerges with great intensity. 
We are not going to leave this planet with our minds un transformed. 
What is happening is an overall transformation of humanity into an en- 
tirely different kind of creature. The monkey is being shed. And the 
thing that is made of language and of image and imagination, that has 
resided in the monkeys for so long, is now superseding biological evolu- 
tion and, through culture, taking over the reins of its own form and des- 
tiny. And the chaos of our age, which is so troubling to us all, is nothing 
unusual at all. It is the normal situation when a species prepares to leave 
the planet. This is the chaos at the end of history. 

There is no question about it. The signs are all around us. The 
signs that are not all around us, but that are known to the aficionados of 
psychedelic substances, are the transformations of consciousness that 
are simultaneous with the transformation of technical culture. These two 
are, in fact, expressions of each other. These times are the birth pangs of 
a new humanity. 

Tryptamine Hallucinogens and 

THERE is a very circumscribed place in organic nature 
that has, I think, important implications for students of 
human nature. I refer to the tryptophan-derived hallu- 
cinogens dimethyltryptamine (DMT), psilocybin, and a 
hybrid drug that is in aboriginal use in the rain forests of 
South America, ayahuasco. This latter is a combination of 
dimethyltryptamine and a monoamine oxidase inhibitor 
that is taken orally. It seems appropriate to talk about 
these drugs when we discuss the nature of consciousness; it is also ap- 
propriate when we discuss quantum physics. 

It is my interpretation that the major quantum mechanical phe- 
nomena that we all experience, aside from waking consciousness itself, 
are dreams and hallucinations. These states, at least in the restricted 
sense that I am concerned with, occur when the large amounts of vari- 
ous sorts of radiation conveyed into the body by the senses are restrict- 
ed. Then we see interior images and interior processes that are 
psychophysical. These processes definitely arise at the quantum me- 
chanical level. It's been shown by John Smythies, Alexander Shulgin, 
and others that there are quantum mechanical correlates to hallucino- 
genesis. In other words, if one atom on the molecular ring of an inactive 
compound is moved, the compound becomes highly active. To me this is 
a perfect proof of the dynamic linkage at the formative level between 
quantum mechanically described matter and mind. 

A talk given at the Lilly/Goswami Conference on Consciousness and Quantum 
Physics at Esalen, December 1983. It was to be the first of many lectures at 
Esalen Institute on the Big Sur Coast of California. 



Hallucinatory states can be induced by a variety of hallucinogens 
. disassociative anesthetics, and by experiences like fasting and other 
Jeals. But what makes the tryptamine family of compounds specifical- 
ly interesting is the intensity of the hallucinations and the concentration 
' activity in the visual cortex. There is an immense vividness to these 
srior landscapes, as if information were being presented three- 
dimensionally and deployed fourth-dimensionally, coded as light and as 
evolving surfaces. When one confronts these dimensions, one becomes 
part of a dynamic relationship relating to the experience while trying to 
decode what it is saying. This phenomenon is not new — people have 
talking to gods and demons for far more of human history than 
they have not. 

It is only the conceit of the scientific and technological postindus- 
1 societies that allows us to even propound some of the questions that 
• take to be so important. For instance, the question of contact with ex- 
traterrestrials is a kind of red herring premised upon a number of as- 
sumptions that a moment's reflection will show are completely false. To 
search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is 
probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a 
good Italian restaurant. And yet, this has been chosen as the avenue by 
which it is assumed contact is likely to occur. Meanwhile, there are peo- 
>le all over the world — psychics, shamans, mystics, schizophrenics — 
vhose heads are filled with information, but it has been ruled a priori 
irrelevant, incoherent, or mad. Only that which is validated through 
consensus via certain sanctioned instrumentalities will be accepted as a 
signal. The problem is that we are actually so inundated by these sig- 
nals — these other dimensions — that there is a great deal of noise in the 

It is no great accomplishment to hear a voice in the head. The ac- 
iplishment is to make sure that it is telling you the truth, because the 
are of many kinds: "Some are made of ions, some of mind; the 
of ketamine, you'll find, stutter often and are blind." The reaction 
to these voices is not to kneel in genuflection before a god, because then 
one will be like Dorothy in her first encounter with Oz. There is no dig- 
in the universe unless we meet these things on our feet, and that 
means having an I/Thou relationship. One says to the Other: "You say 
you are omniscient, omnipresent, or you say you are from Zeta Reticuli. 
You're long on talk, but what can you show me?" Magicians, people 
who invoke these things, have always understood that one must go into 
such encounters with one's wits about oneself. 

What does extraterrestrial communication have to do with this 
family of hallucinogenic compounds I wish to discuss? Simply this: that 
the unique presentational phenomenology of this family of compounds 
has been overlooked. Psilocybin, though rare, is I 



neglected substances. Psilocybin, in the minds of the uninformed public 
and in the eyes of the law, is lumped together with LSD and mescaline, 
when in fact each of these compounds is a phenomenologically defined 
universe unto itself. Psilocybin and DMT invoke the Logos, although 
DMT is more intense and more brief in its action. This means that they 
work directly on the language centers, so that an important aspect of the 
experience is the interior dialogue. As soon as one discovers this about 
psilocybin and about tryptamines in general, one must decide whether 
or not to enter into the dialogue and to try and make sense of the incom- 
ing signal. This is what I have attempted. 

I call myself an explorer rather than a scientist, because the area 
that I'm looking at contains insufficient data to support even the dream 
of being a science. We are in a position comparable to that of explorers 
who map one river and only indicate other rivers flowing into it; we 
must leave many rivers unascended and thus can say nothing about 
them. This Baconian collecting of data, with no assumptions about what 
it might eventually yield, has pushed me to a number of conclusions 
that I did not anticipate. Perhaps through reminiscence I can explain 
what I mean, for in this case describing past experiences raises all of the 

I first experimented with DMT in 1965; it was even then a com- 
pound rarely met with. It is surprising how few people are familiar with 
it, for we live in a society that is absolutely obsessed with every kind of 
sensation imaginable and that adores every therapy, every intoxication, 
every sexual configuration, and all forms of media overload. Yet, how- 
ever much we may be hedonists or pursuers of the bizarre, we find DMT 
to be too much. It is, as they say in Spanish, bastante, it's enough — so 
much enough that it's too much. Once smoked, the onset of the experi- 
ence begins in about fifteen seconds. One falls immediately into a trance. 
One's eyes are closed and one hears a sound like ripping cellophane, like 
someone crumpling up plastic film and throwing it away. A friend of 
mine suggests this is our radio entelechy ripping out of the organic ma- 
trix. An ascending tone is heard. Also present is the normal hallucino- 
genic modality, a shifting geometric surface of migrating and changing 
colored forms. At the synaptic site of activity, all available bond sites are 
being occupied, and one experiences the mode shift occurring over a pe- 
riod of about thirty seconds. At that point one arrives in a place that de- 
fies description, a space that has a feeling of being underground, or 
somehow insulated and domed. In Finnegans Wake such a space is called 
the "merry go raum," from the German word raum, for "space." The 
room is actually going around, and in that space one feels like a child, 
though one has come out somewhere in eternity. 

The experience always reminds me of the twenty-fourth fragment 
of Heraclirus: "The Aeon is a child at play with colored balls." One not 



on ly becomes the Aeon at play with colored balls but meets entities as 
1. In the book by my brother and myself, The Invisible Landscape, I de- 
them as self-transforming machine elves, for that is how they ap- 
pear. These entities are dynamically contorting topological modules that 
are somehow distinct from the surrounding background, which is itself 
undergoing a continuous transformation. These entities remind me of 
the scene in the film version of The Wizard of Oz after the Munchkins 
with a death certificate for the Witch of the East. They all have 
■ squeaky voices and they sing a little song about being "absolutely 
and completely dead." The tryptamine Munchkins come, these hyper- 
dimensional machine-elf entities, and they bathe one in love. It's not 
erotic but it is open-hearted. It certainly feels good. These beings are like 
[ reflections of some previously hidden and suddenly autonomous 
part of one's own psyche. 

And they are speaking, saying, "Don't be alarmed. Remember, 
and do what we are doing." One of the interesting characteristics of 
DMT is that it sometimes inspires fear — this marks the experience as ex- 
authentic. One of the interesting approaches to evaluating a 
Mind is to see how eager people are to do it a second time. A touch 
: terror gives the stamp of validity to the experience because it means, 
i is real." We are in the balance. We read the literature, we know the 
■cimum doses, the LD-50, and so on. But nevertheless, so great is 
one's faith in the mind that when one is out in it one comes to feel that 
the rules of pharmacology do not really apply and that control of exis- 
tence on that plane is really a matter of focus of will and good luck. 

I'm not saying that there's something intrinsically good about ter- 
r. I'm saying that, granted the situation, if one is not terrified then one 
must be somewhat out of contact with the full dynamics of what is hap- 
pening. To not be terrified means either that one is a fool or that one has 
taken a compound that paralyzes the ability to be terrified. I have noth- 
ing against hedonism, and I certainly bring something out of it. But the 
experience must move one's heart, and it will not move the heart unless 
it deals with the issues of life and death. If it deals with life and death it 
will move one to fear, it will move one to tears, it will move one to 
iter. These places are profoundly strange and alien. 
The fractal elves seem to be reassuring, saying, "Don't worry, 
I't worry; do this, look at this." Meanwhile, one is completely "over 
ie." One's ego is intact. One's fear reflexes are intact. One is not 
"fuzzed out" at all. Consequently, the natural reaction is amazement; 
profound astonishment that persists and persists. One breathes and it 
persists. The elves are saying, "Don't get a loop of wonder going that 
quenches your ability to understand. Try not to be so amazed. Try to fo- 
cus and look at what we're doing." What they're doing is emitting 
sounds like music, like language. These sounds pass without any quan- 


tized moment of distinction — as Philo Judaeus said that the Logos 
would when it became perfect — from things heard into things beheld. 
One hears and beholds a language of alien meaning that is conveying 
alien information that cannot be Englished. 

Being monkeys, when we encounter a translinguistic object, a 
kind of cognitive dissonance is set up in our hindbrain. We try to pour 
language over it and it sheds it like water off a duck's back. We try again 
and fail again, and this cognitive dissonance, this "wow" or "flutter" 
that is building off this object causes wonder, astonishment, and awe at 
the brink of terror. One must control that. And the way to control it is to 
do what the entities are telling one to do, to do what they are doing. 

I mention these "effects" to invite the attention of experimental- 
ists, whether they be shamans or scientists. There is something going on 
with these compounds that is not part of the normal presentational spec- 
trum of hallucinogenic drug experience. When one begins to experiment 
with one's voice, unanticipated phenomena become possible. One expe- 
riences glossolalia, although unlike classical glossolalia, which has been 
studied. Students of classical glossolalia have measured pools of saliva 
eighteen inches across on the floors of South American churches where 
people have been kneeling. After classical glossolalia has occurred, the 
glossolaliasts often turn to ask the people nearby, "Did I do it? Did I 
speak in tongues?" This hallucinogen-induced phenomenon isn't like 
that; it's simply a brain state that allows the expression of the assembly 
language that lies behind language, or a primal language of the sort that 
Robert Graves discussed in The White Goddess, or a Kabbalistic language 
of the sort that is described in the Zohar, a primal i/r sprach that comes 
out of oneself. One discovers one can make the extradimensional ob- 
jects — the feeling-toned, meaning-toned, three-dimensional rotating 
complexes of transforming light and color. To know this is to feel like a 
child. One is playing with colored balls; one has become the Aeon. 

This happened to me twenty seconds after 1 smoked DMT on a 
particular day in 1966. I was appalled. Until then I had thought that I 
had my ontological categories intact. I had taken LSD before, yet this 
thing came upon me like a bolt from the blue. I came down and said 
(and I said it many times), "I cannot believe this; this is impossible, this 
is completely impossible." There was a declension of gnosis that proved 
to me in a moment that right here and now, one quanta away, there is 
raging a universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimen- 
sional, and extremely alien. I call it the Logos, and I make no judgments 
about it. I constantly engage it in dialogue, saying, "Well, what are you? 
Are you some kind of diffuse consciousness that is in the ecosystem of 
the earth? Are you a god or an extraterrestrial? Show me what you 



The psilocybin mushrooms also convey one into the world of the 
tryptamine hypercontinuum. Indeed, psilocybin is a psychoactive 
tryptamine. The mushroom is full of answers to the questions raised by 
its own presence. The true history of the galaxy over the last four and a 
half billion years is trivial to it. One can access images of cosmological 
history. Such experiences naturally raise the question of independent 
validation — at least for a time this was my question. But as I became 
more familiar with the epistemological assumptions of modern science, I 
slowly realized that the structure of the Western intellectual enterprise is 
so flimsy at the center that apparently no one knows anything with certi- 
e. It was then that I became less reluctant to talk about these experi- 
They are experiences, and as such they are primary data for 
5. This dimension is not remote, and yet it is so unspeakably bizarre 
-t it casts into doubt all of humanity's historical assumptions. 

The psilocybin mushrooms do the same things that DMT does, al- 
though the experience builds up over an hour and is sustained for a cou- 
ple of hours. There is the same confrontation with an alien intelligence 
and extremely bizarre translinguistic information complexes. These ex- 
periences strongly suggest that there is some latent ability of the human 
brain/body that has yet to be discovered; yet, once discovered, it will be 
so obvious that it will fall right into the mainstream of cultural evolu- 
tion. It seems to me that either language is the shadow of this ability or 
that this ability will be a further extension of language. Perhaps a human 
language is possible in which the intent of meaning is actually beheld in 
three-dimensional space. If this can happen on DMT, it means it is at 
least, under some circumstances, accessible to human beings. Given ten 
thousand years and high cultural involvement in such a talent, does 
anyone doubt that it could become a cultural convenience in the same 
way that mathematics or language has become a cultural convenience? 

Naturally, as a result of the confrontation of alien intelligence 
with organized intellect on the other side, many theories have been elab- 
orated. The theory that I put forth in Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom 
Grozver's Guide, held that the mushroom was in /act an extraterrestrial. I 
suggested that the Strophanti cubensis mushroom was a species that did 
not evolve on earth. Within the mushroom trance, I was informed that 
once a culture has complete understanding of its genetic information, it 
reengineers itself for survival. The Stropharia cubensis mushroom's ver- 
sion of reengineering is a mycelial network strategy when in contact 
with planetary surfaces and a spore-dispersion strategy as a means of ra- 
diating throughout the galaxy. And, though I am troubled by how freely 
Bell's nonlocality theorem is tossed around, nevertheless the alien intel- 
lect on the other side does seem to be in possession of a huge body of in- 
formation drawn from the history of the galaxy. It/they say that there is 



nothing unusual about this, that humanity's conceptions of organized 
intelligence and the dispersion of life in the galaxy are hopelessly cul- 
ture-bound, that the galaxy has been an organized society for billions of 
years. Life evolves under so many different regimens of chemistry, tem- 
perature, and pressure, that searching for an extraterrestrial who will sit 
down and have a conversation with you is doomed to failure. The main 
problem with searching for extraterrestrials is to recognize them. Time is 
so vast and evolutionary strategies and environments so varied that the 
trick is to know that contact is being made at all. The Stropharia cubensis 
mushroom, if one can believe what it says in one of its moods, is a sym- 
biote, and it desires ever deeper symbiosis with the human species. It 
achieved symbiosis with human society early by associating itself with 
domesticated cattle and through them human nomads. Like the plants 
men and women grew and the animals they husbanded, the mushroom 
was able to inculcate itself into the human family, so that where human 
genes went these other genes would be carried. 

But the classic mushroom cults of Mexico were destroyed by the 
coming of the Spanish conquest. The Franciscans assumed they had an 
absolute monopoly on theophagy, the eating of God; yet in the New 
World they came upon people calling a mushroom teonanacatl, the flesh 
of the gods. They set to work, and the Inquisition was able to push the 
old religion into the mountains of Oaxaca so that it only survived in a 
few villages when Valentina and Gordon Wasson found it there in the 

There is another metaphor. One must balance these explanations. 
Now I shall sound as if I didn't think the mushroom is an extraterrestri- 
al. It may instead be what I've recently come to suspect — that the human 
soul is so alienated from us in our present culture that we treat it as an 
extraterrestrial. To us the most alien thing in the cosmos is the human 
soul. Aliens Hollywood-style could arrive on earth tomorrow and the 
DMT trance would remain more weird and continue to hold more 
promise for useful information for the human future. It is that intense. 
Ignorance forced the mushroom cult into hiding. Ignorance burned the 
libraries of the Hellenistic world at an earlier period and dispersed the 
ancient knowledge, shattering the stellar and astrological machinery that 
had been the work of centuries. By ignorance I mean the Hellenistic- 
Christian-Judaic tradition. The inheritors of this tradition built a triumph 
of mechanism. It was they who later realized the alchemical dreams of 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries — and the twentieth century — with 
the transformation of elements and the discovery of gene transplants. 
But then, having conquered the New World and driven its people into 
cultural fragmentation and diaspora, they came unexpectedly upon the 


Mexico where Eros had retreated at the coming of the Christos. And by 
finding the mushroom, they unleashed it. 

Phillip K. Dick, in one of his last novels, Valis, discusses the long 
hibernation of the Logos. A creature of pure information, it was buried 
in the ground at Nag Hammadi, along with the burying of the 
Chenoboskion Library circa 370 A.D. As static information, it existed 
there until 1947, when the texts were translated and read. As soon as 
people had the information in their minds, the symbiote came alive, for, 
like the mushroom consciousness, Dick imagined it to be a thing of pure 
formation. The mushroom consciousness is the consciousness of the 
ther in hyperspace, which means in dream and in the psilocybin 
rnce, at the quantum foundation of being, in the human future, and af- 
- death. All of these places that were thought to be discrete and sepa- 
ic are seen to be part of a single continuum. History is the dash over 
~ i to fifteen thousand years from nomadism to flying saucer, hopefully 
! thout ripping the envelope of the planet so badly that the birth is 
" crted and fails, and we remain brutish prisoners of matter. 

History is the shock wave of eschatology. Something is at the end 
* time and it is casting an enormous shadow over human history, 
awing all human becoming toward it. All the wars, the philosophies, 
the rapes, the pillaging, the migrations, the cities, the civilizations — all of 
this is occupying a microsecond of geological, planetary, and galactic 
time as the monkeys react to the symbiote, which is in the environment 
and which is feeding information to humanity about the larger picture. I 
not belong to the school that wants to attribute all of our accomplish- 
.ts to knowledge given to us as a gift from friendly aliens— I'm de- 
scribing something I hope is more profound than that. As nervous 
systems evolve to higher and higher levels, they come more and more to 
understand the true situation in which they are embedded. And the true 
situation in which we are embedded is an organism, an organization of 
active intelligence on a galactic scale. Science and mathematics may be 
culture-bound. We cannot know for sure, because we have never dealt 
with an alien mathematics or an alien culture except in the occult realm, 
and that evidence is inadmissible by the guardians of scientific truth. This 
means that the contents of shamanic experience and of plant-induced ec- 
stasies are inadmissible even though they are the source of novelty and 
the cutting edge of the ingression of the novel into the plenum of being. 

Think about this for a moment: If the human mind does not loom 
large in the coming history of the human race, then what is to become of 
us? The future is bound to be psychedelic, because the future belongs to 
the mind. We are just beginning to push the buttons on the mind. Once 
we take a serious engineering approach to this, we are going to discover 
the plasticity, the mutability, the eternal nature of the mind and, I believe, 


release it from the monkey. My vision of the final human future is an ef- 
fort to exteriorize the soul and internalize the body, so that the exterior 
soul will exist as a superconducting lens of translinguistic matter gener- 
ated out of the body of each of us at a critical juncture at our psychedelic 
bar mitzvah. From that point on, we will be eternal somewhere in the 
solid-state matrix of the translinguistic lens we have become. One's 
body image will exist as a holographic wave transform while one is at 
play in the fields of the Lord and living in Elysium. 

Other intelligent monkeys have walked this planet. We extermi- 
nated them and so now we are unique, but what is loose on this planet is 
language, self-replicating information systems that reflect functions of 
DNA: learning, coding, templating, recording, testing, retesting, recod- 
ing against DNA functions. Then again, language may be a quality of an 
entirely different order. Whatever language is, it is in us monkeys now 
and moving through us and moving out of our hands and into the noo- 
sphere with which we have surrounded ourselves. 

The tryptamine state seems to be in one sense transtemporal; it is 
an anticipation of the future. It is as though Plato's metaphor were 
true — that time is the moving image of eternity. The tryptamine ecstasy 
is a stepping out of the moving image and into eternity, the eternity of 
the standing now, the mine slims of Thomas Aquinas. In that state, all of 
human history is seen to lead toward this culminating moment. 
Acceleration is visible in all the processes around us: the fact that fire 
was discovered several million years ago; language came perhaps thirty- 
five thousand years ago; measurement, five thousand; Galileo, four hun- 
dred; then Watson-Crick and DNA. What is obviously happening is that 
everything is being drawn together. On the other hand, the description 
our physicists are giving us of the universe — that it has lasted billions of 
years and will last billions of years into the future— is a dualistic concep- 
tion, an inductive projection that is very unsophisticated when applied 
to the nature of consciousness and language. Consciousness is somehow 
able to collapse the state vector and thereby cause the stuff of being to 
undergo what Alfred North Whitehead called "the formality of actually 
occurring." Here is the beginning of an understanding of the centrality 
of human beings. Western societies have been on a decentralizing ben- 
der for five hundred years, concluding that the earth is not the center of 
the universe and man is not the beloved of God. We have moved our- 
selves out toward the edge of the galaxy, when the fact is that the most 
richly organized material in the universe is the human cerebral cortex, 
and the densest and richest experience in the universe is the experience 
you are having right now. Everything should be constellated outward 
from the perceiving self. That is the primary datum. 

The perceiving self under the influence of these hallucinogenic 
plants gives information that is totally at variance with the models that 



w e inherit from our past, yet these dimensions exist. On one level, this 
information is a matter of no great consequence, for many cultures have 
understood this for millennia. But we modems are so grotesquely alien- 
ated and taken out of what life is about that to us it comes as a revela- 
tion. Without psychedelics the closest we can get to the Mystery is to try 
to feel in some abstract mode the power of myth or ritual. This grasping 
very overintellectualized and unsatisfying sort of process. 

As I said, I am an explorer, not a scientist. If I were unique, then 
le of my conclusions would have any meaning outside the context of 
yself. My experiences, like yours, have to be more or less a part of the 
human condition. Some may have more facility for such exploration 
than others, and these states may be difficult to achieve, but they are 
part of the human condition. There are few clues that these extradimen- 
sional places exist. If art carries images out of the Other from the Logos 
to the world — drawing ideas down into matter — -why is human art his- 
tory so devoid of what psychedelic voyagers have experienced so total- 
ly? Perhaps the flying saucer or UFO is the central motif to be understood 
in order to get a handle on reality here and now. We are alienated, so 
alienated that the self must disguise itself as an extraterrestrial in order 
not to alarm us with the truly bizarre dimensions that it encompasses. 
When we can love the alien, then we will have begun to heal the psychic 
discontinuity that has plagued us since at least the sixteenth century, 
possibly earlier. 

My testimony is that magic is alive in hyperspace. It is not neces- 
sary to believe me, only to form a relationship with these hallucinogenic 
plants. The fact is that the gnosis comes from plants. There is some cer- 
tainty that one is dealing with a creature of integrity if one deals with a 
plant, but the creatures bom in the demonic artifice of laboratories have 
to be dealt with very, very carefully. DMT is an endogenous hallucino- 
gen. It is present in small amounts in the human brain. Also it is impor- 
tant that psilocybin is 4-phosphoraloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine and 
that serotonin, the major neurotransmitter in the human brain, found in 
all life and most concentrated in humans, is 5-hydroxytryptamine. The 
very fact that the onset of DMT is so rapid, lasting five minutes and 
coming on in forty-five seconds, means that the brain is absolutely at 
home with this compound. On the other hand, a hallucinogen like LSD 
is retained in the body for some time. 

I will add a cautionary note. I always feel odd telling people to 
Verify my observations since the sine qua non is the hallucinogenic 
plant. Experimenters should be very careful. One must build up to the 
experience. These are bizarre dimensions of extraordinary power and 
beauty. There is no set rule to avoid being overwhelmed, but move care- 
fully, reflect a great deal, and always try to map experiences back onto 
the history of the race and the philosophical and religious accomplish- 



merits of the species. All compounds are potentially dangerous, and all 
compounds, at sufficient doses or repeated over time, involve risks. The 
library is the first place to go when looking into taking a new com- 

We need all the information available to navigate dimensions that 
are profoundly strange and alien. I have been to Konarak and visited 
Bubaneshwar. I'm familiar with Hindu iconography and have collected 
thankas. I saw similarities between my LSD experiences and the iconog- 
raphy of Mahayana Buddhism. In fact, it was LSD experiences that 
drove me to collect Mahayana art. But what amazed me was the total ab- 
sence of the motifs of DMT. It is not there; it is not there in any tradition 
familiar to me. 

There is a very interesting story by Jorge Luis Borges called "The 
Sect of the Phoenix." Allow me to recapitulate.' Borges starts out by writ- 
ing: "There is no human group in which members of the sect do not ap- 
pear. It is also true that there is no persecution or rigor they have not 
suffered and perpetrated." He continues, 

The rite is the only religious practice observed by the sectarians. The rite 
constitutes the Secret. This Secret ... is transmitted from generation to 
generation. The act in itself is trivial, momentary, and requires no de- 
scription. The Secret is sacred, but is always somewhat ridiculous; its 
performance is furtive and the adept do not speak of it. There are no de- 
cent words to name it, but it is understood that all words name it or 
rather inevitably allude to it. 

Borges never explicitly says what the Secret is, but if one knows 
his other story, "The Aleph," one can put these two together and realize 
that the Aleph is the experience of the Secret of the Cult of the Phoenix. 

In the Amazon, when the mushroom was revealing its informa- 
tion and deputizing us to do various things, we asked, "Why us? Why 
should we be the ambassadors of an alien species into human culture?" 
And it answered, "Because you did not believe in anything. Because you 
have never given over your belief to anyone." The sect of the phoenix, 
the cult of this experience, is perhaps millennia old, but it has not yet 
been brought to light where the historical threads may run. The prehis- 
toric use of ecstatic plants on this planet is not well understood. Until re- 
cently, psilocybin mushroom taking was confined to the central isthmus 
of Mexico. The psilocybin-containing species Stropharia cubensis is not 
known to be in archaic use in a shamanic rite anywhere in the world. 
DMT is used in the Amazon and has been for millennia, but by cultures 
quite primitive — usually nomadic hunter-gatherers. 

I am baffled by what I call "the black hole effect" that seems to 
surround DMT. A black hole 



light can leave it, and, since no signal can leave it, no information can 
ve it. Let us leave aside the issue of whether this is true in practice of 
g black holes. Think of it as a metaphor. Metaphorically, DMT is 
like an intellectual black hole in that once one knows about it, it is very 
hard for others to understand what one is talking about One cannot be 
heard. The more one is able to articulate what it is, the less others are 
able to understand. This is why I think people who attain enlighten- 
ment, if we may for a moment comap these two things, are silent. They 
silent because we cannot understand them. Why the phenomenon of 
tryptamine ecstasy has not been looked at by scientists, thrill seekers, or 
anyone else, I am not sure, but I recommend it to your attention. 

The tragedy of our cultural situation is that we have no shamanic 
tradition. Shamanism is primarily techniques, not ritual. It is a set of 
techniques that have been worked out over millennia that make it possi- 
ble, though perhaps not for everyone, to explore these areas. People of 
predilection are noticed and encouraged. 

In archaic societies where shamanism is a thriving institution, 
signs are fairly easy to recognize: oddness or uniqueness in an indi- 
~dual. Epilepsy is often a signature in preliterate societies, or survival 
an unusual ordeal in an unexpected way. For instance, people who 
are struck by lightning and live are thought to make excellent shamans, 
eople who nearly die of a disease and fight their way back to health af- 
weeks and weeks in an indeterminate zone are thought to have 
strength of soul. Among aspiring shamans there must be some sign of 
inner strength or a hypersensitivity to trance states. In traveling around 
the world and dealing with shamans, I find the distinguishing charac- 
teristic is an extraordinary centeredness. Usually the shaman is an intel- 
lectual and is alienated from society. A good shaman sees exactly who 
you are and says, "Ah, here's somebody to have a conversation with." 
The anthropological literature always presents shamans as embedded 
in a tradition, but once one gets to know them they are always very so- 
phisticated about what they are doing. They are the true phenomenolo- 
gists of this world; they know plant chemistry, yet they call these 
energy fields "spirits." We hear the word "spirits" through a series of 
narrowing declensions of meaning that are worse almost than not un- 
derstanding. Shamans speak of "spirit" the way a quantum physicist 
might speak of "charm"; it is a technical gloss for a very complicated 

It is possible that there are shamanic family lines, at least in the 
case of hallucinogen-using shamans, because shamanic ability is to some 
degree determined by how many active receptor sites occur in the brain, 
thus facilitating these experiences. Some claim to have these experiences 
naturally, but I am underwhelmed by the evidence that this is so. What 


I always ask that question; finally, in the Amazon, informants 
said, "Let's take our machetes and hike out here half a mile and get 
some vine and boil it up and we will show you what we can show you." 

Let us be clear. People die in these societies that I'm talking about 
all the time and for all kinds of reasons. Death is really much more 
among them than it is in our society. Those who have epilepsy who 
don't die are brought to the attention of the shaman and trained in 
breathing and plant usage and other things — the fact is that we don't re- 
ally know all of what goes on. These secret information systems have 
not been well studied. Shamanism is not, in these traditional societies, a 
terribly pleasant office. Shamans are not normally allowed to have any 
political power, because they are sacred. The shaman is to be found sit- 
ting at the headman's side in the council meetings, but after the council 
meeting he returns to his hut at the edge of the village. Shamans are pe- 
ripheral to society's goings on in ordinary social life in every sense of the 
word. They are called on in crisis, and the crisis can be someone dying 
or ill, a psychological difficulty, a marital quarrel, a theft, or weather that 
must be predicted. 

We do not live in that kind of society, so when I explore these 
plants' effects and try to call your attention to them, it is as a phe- 
nomenon. I don't know what we can do with this phenomenon, but I 
have a feeling that the potential is great. The mind-set that I always 
bring to it is simply exploratory and Baconian— the mapping and gath- 
ering of facts. 

Herbert Guenther talks about human uniqueness and says one 
must come to terms with one's uniqueness. We are naive about the role 
of language and being as the primary facts of experience. What good is a 
theory of how the universe works if it's a series of tensor equations that, 
even when understood, come nowhere tangential to experience? The 
only intellectual or noetic or spiritual path worth following is one that 
builds on personal experience. 

What the mushroom says about itself is this: that it is an extrater- 
restrial organism, that spores can survive the conditions of interstellar 
space. They are deep, deep purple — the color that they would have to be 
to absorb the deep ultraviolet end of the spectrum. The casing of a spore 
is one of the hardest organic substances known. The electron density ap- 
proaches that of a metal. 

Is it possible that these mushrooms never evolved on earth? That 
is what Stropharia cubensis itself suggests. Global currents may form on 
the outside of the spore. The spores are very light and by Brownian mo- 
tion are capable of percolation to the edge of a planet's atmosphere. 
Then, through interaction with energetic particles, some small number 
could actually escape into space. Understand that this is an evolutionary 



strategy where only one in many billions of spores actually makes the 
transition between the stars— a biological strategy for radiating through- 
out the galaxy without a technology. Of course this happens over very 
long periods of time. But if you think that the galaxy is roughly a hun- 
dred thousand light-years from edge to edge, if something were moving 
only one one-hundredth the speed of light — now that's not a tremen- 
dous speed that presents problems to any advanced technology — it 
could cross the galaxy in one hundred million years. There's life on this 
planet 1.8 billion years old; that's eighteen times longer than one hun- 
dred million years. So, looking at the galaxy on those rime scales, one 
sees that the percolation of spores between the stars is a perfectly viable 
strategy for biology. It might take millions of years, but it's the same 
principle by which plants migrate into a desert or across an ocean. 

There are no fungi in the fossil record older than forty million 
years. The orthodox explanation is that fungi are soft-bodied and do not 
fossilize well, but on the other hand we have fossilized soft-bodied 
worms and other benthic marine invertebrates from South African gun- 
flint chert that is dated to over a billion years old. 

I don't necessarily believe what the mushroom tells me; rather we 
have a dialogue. It is a very strange person and has many bizarre opin- 
ions. I entertain it the way I would any eccentric friend. I say, "Well, so 
at's what you think." When the mushroom began saying it was an ex- 
estrial, I felt that I was placed in the dilemma of a child who wish- 
es to destroy a radio to see if there are little people inside. I couldn't 
jure out whether the mushroom is the alien or the mushroom is some 
of technological artifact allowing me to hear the alien when the 
i is actually light-years away, using some kind of Bell nonlocality 
triple to communicate. 

The mushroom states its own position very clearly. It says, "I re- 
: the nervous system of a mammal. Do you have one handy?" 


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Remarks to ARUPA, 1984 

WAS STRUCK by something that Arthur Young said. Someone 
brought him a machine and asked him to improve the machine. 
Arthur asked what the machine was supposed to do. The person 
who brought the machine said he didn't know what it was sup- 
posed to do. Arthur asked how, then, he could be expected to im- 
prove it. I feel that we are in that situation with psychedelics. I 
would not leave my book-lined study to participate in a conference 
on a breakthrough in the orthomolecular treatment of neurosis, so I 
don't choose to view any of this, at its core, as having to do with that. I 
am much more radical and millenarian and perhaps "teched" than that 
point of view. What I think is going on with psychedelics, especially the 
tryptamine family (and I will return to that), is some kind of intimation 
of an objective reality. 

When I am asked, "What is your fantasy?" or "What is your vi- 
sion?" I answer that I would like to bring back a chunk of the other di- 
mension. Sometimes I see it not as a bringing back of a chunk but as a 
punching of a hole so that it pours through. Marilyn Ferguson and I 
were talking earlier and she said, "Psychedelics are windows." I said, 
"My hope is that they are doors and we could open them and walk 
through and move from room to room in some kind of hyperdimensional 
world where the reality of these things is confirmed." 

Plato said, "If God didn't exist, man would invent him." If this 
psychedelic, hyperdimensional world didn't exist, we would invent it 

This talk was given at Esalen Institute in Big Sur California in the fall of 1984 at a 
gathering of the Association for the Responsible Use of Psychedelics, an informal 
group of psychologists, chemists, and therapists who regularly met at Esalen 
from 1983 to 1986 under the sponsorship of the late and much beloved Richard 





through computers and human-machine interphasing. Fortunately, it 
does exist in the worldwide tradition of the use of psychedelic sub- 
stances. I appreciate the efforts of people like Fritjof Capra to give an ac- 
count of consciousness in terms of quantum physics, but my own 
conviction is that the first premise should be that we actually know ab- 
solutely nothing about the nature of reality. This is why we are unable to 
give an adequate definition of "mind" or "being" or "self." 

We are probably as far from any godlike notion of objective truth 
as any society in the past. I find the notion that we are descended from 
ant-people who came out of the urine of the sky god when he got out of 
his canoe at the seventh waterfall to relieve himself more palpable than 
that we are derivatives of the Big Bang — a moment when the whole uni- 
verse sprang from nothing and for no reason at all. It is a matter of rela- 
tivism of mythologies. We are actually at square one in trying to figure 
out the nature of being in the world. That is why I wish there were more 
excitement, or conviction, or some way that we could break down the 
barriers between ourselves so that we could cease to be the blind men 
with the elephant and have some kind of consensus about what this di- 
mension is and what it portends. 

Yesterday, Stan Grof brought up the notion of the "psychoid." This 
word occurs in Jung's thought when he hedges slightly on the nature of 
the dynamics of the unconscious. He suggests that it is both in the world 
and within and that there is some congruence. This is the dimension that 
the psychedelics are adapted to explore: these intermediate states between 
mind and matter. Migration of coincidence, synchronistic meshing of the 
exterior and interior flow of events, are phenomena that can be repeatedly 
triggered with these compounds. This is very important. 

We need to admit that there is something toxic about the histori- 
cal process — that we cannot really fine-tune it and save ourselves. The 
notion was very strong in Fritjof Capra's talk that science needs a new 
suit of clothes and then it will be adequate for conveying the unfolding 
nature of reality. I wonder if that is true. One of the things that 
psychedelics bring to the fore that would run any physicist wild is the 
curious literary quality that is visible on the surface of existence. We dis- 
cover ourselves to be characters in a novel, being both propelled by and 
vichmized by various kinds of coincidental forces that shape our lives. 
This is what recognition of the synchronistic factor is. It is as though you 
trapped the mind in the act of making reality. 

Frank Barr and I were talking about Finnegans Wake and relating 
fractal by saying a fractal is a curve that, by virtue of its complexi- 
ty, attains a partial dimension more of self-expression in the universe. 
Finnegans Wake is a book that, in some sense, tries to climb into the 
world and be instead an autonomous event system. I think psychedelics 
show that the interphasing between an ordinary world of three-dimen- 



sional experience and these higher-dimensional spaces can be attained. 
The psychedelic allows, by raising us a fraction of a dimension, some 
kind of contemplative access to hyperspace. 

What my brother Dennis McKenna was saying in his talk was 
that humanness was formed out of the interphase between the plants 
and primates. I can see that as an ongoing process, only interrupted on 
the face of the planet in Europe about fifteen hundred years ago. These 
various substances act as a mediating force in human history. You have 
only to think of the impact of sugar, tobacco, coffee, alcohol, opium, or 

I was surprised at the discussion suggesting that psychedelics can 
make you a good citizen. My assumption about psychedelics has always 
been that the reason they are not legal is not because it troubles anyone 
that you have visions, but that there is something about them that casts 
doubts on the validity of reality. They are inevitably deconditioning 
agents simply by demonstrating the existence of a nearby reality run- 
ning on a different dynamic. I think they are inherently catalysts of intel- 
lectual dissent. This makes it very hard for societies, even a democratic 
society, to come to terms with them. 

The thing I am brought here to say is that these botanical 
tryptamines are different. There is a problem with the history of 
psychedelics: LSD emerged at a certain point and became a social prob- 
lem. A huge amount of research was poured into that. The other hallu- 
cinogens — psilocybin, DMT, etc. — were considered to be similar 
compounds that only required more physical material to elicit their ef- 
fects. They were lumped together in the standard texts. Actually the 
tryptamines have a quality very different from LSD, almost to the point 
where the word "psychedelic" needs to be split in two to accommodate 
the ontological difference between tryptamines and these other sub- 

Albert Hofmann: Do you count psilocybin with the tryptamines? 
TM: Yes, absolutely. 

Albert Hofmann: Then you see big differences between LSD and 

TM: Surely. It seems LSD is only reluctantly a visionary hallu- 
cinogen. In terms of activity in the visual cortex, psilocybin is a fantasti- 
cally prolific generator of visual hallucinations. Visual hallucinations 
are, I think, much more accessible to most people on psilocybin. 
However, the truly distinguishing quality between them, and you dis- 
cussed this briefly in Santa Barbara, is that the tryptamines have a quali- 



presence— not easily referenced to the components of the psyche. And it 
is animate, strange, and imbued with an alienness and a personality that 
is not present in LSD. Do you think that is true? 

Albert Hofmann: Yes, but I believe there is a difference between 
psilocybin and the tryptamines. Psilocybin works orally; the other 
tryptamines must be smoked. 

TM: Ayahuasca is an orally active tryptamine. On a good strong 
hit of ayahuasca at about the hour-and-twenty-minute mark you will very 
slowly come into a place indistinguishable from having smoked DMT. 
The same thing happens on psilocybin, at the thirty-milligram level, at 
about the hour and twenty-minute point. It is known that psilocybin does 
not degrade into DMT, but DMT is present in ayahuasca as a pure com- 
pound. It is strange: tryptamines are the most common hallucinogens in 
organic nature, but they are the least explored by science. I believe this is 
a reluctance to face this alien and peculiar dimension. Sasha Shulgin de- 
scribes DMT as "dark"; that is his gloss on it. "Demonic" is a word fre- 
quently used. I am not entirely certain what that means. Jung always 
talked about "demons," and he associated "demons" with the earth. I re- 
call he speaks of the Mexican demons of the earth. 

It is true that people are very reticent with the mushroom, ap- 
proaching very carefully. The tryptamines are the compounds least sub- 
ject to abuse because even enthusiasts move very gingerly. 

This is because the experience is so weird. It involves ingression 
into an extrahuman dimension that is autonomous from the ego, a di- 
mension whose measure cannot be taken. It is not about working out our 
personal introspective processes. All psychedelics appear to be the same 
psychedelic at low doses, doses just over threshold. But as larger doses 
that are still pharmacologically safe are taken, differences appear. Exotic 
synesthesias occur, including the generation of three-dimensional lan- 
guages; a situation where, using voice, one can create three-dimensional 
colored modalities that have linguistic content. This visible language can 
be displayed to a partner who is in the same state. It is as though lan- 
guage has a potential that is only rarely expressed. Robert Graves has 
written about an ur sprach — a primal language of poetry that had its pow- 
er in the beholding of it. And Hans Jonas has talked about the notion of a 
more perfect Logos — a Logos not of the ears, but of the eyes. 

I believe that psychedelic research is not a peripheral historical 
backwater. Psychedelics are not a breakthrough primarily directed at the 
neurotic or the mentally ill. They are literally "the new world." Land has 
been sighted in hyperspace. We now have four or five hundred years of 
exploration ahead of us. In the psychedelic human-machine interphase, 
there can be castles in the imagination. We can decide that this was what 
human history was for — this marriage of imagination and ability so 



that a civilization can be created that is truly civilized through being 
rooted in the psychedelic experience. 

There is concern, perhaps even anxiety, that we as a group, we as 
a people who share this knowledge, need to create a political climate 
where more research can be done and where these matters can be more 
freely talked about. In principle I agree with all of that, but I am not in- 
terested in putting much energy into it. In the past there has been a lot of 
clinical experimentation with LSD; one speaker referred to data from 
eight thousand LSD administrations. Surely what could be learned in 
that mode was learned, or at least the surface was scratched. 

Instead of the horizontal broadening of the faith, I would be 
much more interested in a vertical strengthening of the faith by having 
the people who have taken these compounds take more of them, take 
different ones, and take larger doses. The real crucible of this research is 
the Self. We should be keeping journals and recording experiences into a 
data bank so that common themes can be tracked through large groups 
of filed reports. In other words, strengthen the community rather than 
broaden it 

I believe that the psychedelic experience was the light at the be- 
ginning of history. That this is actually Ihe thing; that we have now 
reached a sufficient level of analytical sophistication to discern the force 
that pushed the animal mind onto the human stage. It is a process that, 
once it is set into motion, will not end. It is as though these botanical hal- 
lucinogens were exohormones, message-bearing chemicals shed by Gaia 
to control the development of the historical process in the catalytic trig- 
ger species that is introducing change on the planet. It isn't merely a 
matter of noetic archaeology that we have now learned something about 
the past. This is also true of Albert Hofmann's discovery about Eleusis; 
this may ultimately have a greater impact than the discovery of LSD it- 
self. It is a discovery of a skeleton in the closet. There are skeletons in the 
closet of human origins and of the origin of religion. I would wager that 
these skeletons are all plant psychedelics. If we can come to terms with 
them, we can begin to understand the shape of the human future. 

The psychedelic experience is not easy to measure. It appears to 
be a world nearly as large as the previous domain of nature. It is not 
simply the Jungian collective unconscious — the repository of all human 
species' experience — still less is it the Freudian notion of the repository 
of memories of individual experience. It seems that what Freud and 
Jung thought of as a place in the organization of the psyche is cognized 
in the shamanic model as a place, a nearby, adjacent dimension into 
which the mind can project itself and, by self-scaling itself to these interi- 
or dimensions, experience them as realities. 

The goal of William Blake, to release the human spirit into the 


the judicious application of cybernetics and psychedelic substances. I see 
it coming fast arid, since this group is at the cutting edge by some defini- 
tion, I am surprised we are as low-key as we are. How we line up on 
these various issues, how we understand and interpret these experiences, 
will set the tone for how the issue flowers out over the world. 

One question is how we can make bridges into the future. There 
are about five or six very hot hallucinogen-related botanical questions 
hanging fire in various places in the world, drugs or shamanic prepara- 
tions where the literature is very suggestive and the plant families in- 
volved have hallucinogens already identified in them. Five years of 
work by physicians, anthropologists, ethnobotanists, and adventurers 
could probably double the amount of information known about botani- 
cal hallucinogens. 

In the past the stress has been on the laboratory elaboration of 
structural relatives of known compounds. But even compounds like 
2CB, which is related to DOM, would never have been discovered if 
someone had not noticed that the natural product myristicin had some 
form of psychoactivity. The whole MDMA family can be seen as an elab- 
oration of the myristicin molecule. We need to know if there are hallu- 
cinogens, in unknown chemical families, that hold the secret to the 
elaboration of new compounds in the laboratory. 

The original approach of pharmaceutical botany was to send peo- 
ple to the forest and jungle to make collections, then extractions, then 
characterizations, and then, as the art of synthesis advanced, there was 
less and less of this and more and more synthesis from theory based on 
structure-activity relationships. Now a lot of that work has been done 
and no new hallucinogenic family of importance has been discovered. 
There is important botanical survey work to be done in the world to nail 
down hallucinogens whose usage may be fading, restricted, or very en- 
demic. All of these things are ways of expanding our hold on what hal- 
lucinogens are. What is their place in nature? That could be done. It is 
not in the mental health care delivery context. 

The Italian Renaissance ran on spices; they had to get spices from 
somewhere, so they bought them. "Spices" is a very ambiguous term. If 
we could get psychedelics reclassified as spices they would come under 
the control not of psychotherapists and mental health care people but of 
chefs and maitre d's. Then we would have an entirely different approach 
to the administration of psychedelic substances, set, setting, goals. 

It seems we are in the stone age in every phase of these explo- 
rations. There is so much to be done. It is amazing — and it is an amazing 
privilege for all of us to be in on the ground floor. It is hard to believe 
that twenty-five years after Leary waged the LSD wars we could still be 
in on the ground floor; but that is what it seems, by default; no one else 
wants this. 



Ralph Metzner: May I make a couple of comments about that? 
Your ideas, as well as Albert Hofmann's idea about the role of ergotlike 
plants in Eleusis, tie into the notion of the reawakening of the old gods. 
These are sacred plants that were treated as sacred beings, divine beings, 
basically deities. If we are in fact able to identify what soma was, we will 
be able to identify and re-create the original source-energy behind the 
Indo-European civilization. Similarly, if we rediscover and are able to in- 
corporate whatever was used at Eleusis, we will have the original impe- 
tus behind Greek-European civilization that carried it for two thousand 
years as the primary vehicle of religious experience. 

TM: Soma is the light at the beginning and end of history. This is 
the notion. It infuses history. History is a process that it created for its 
own purposes. We are involved in a symbiotic relationship with a bio- 
logical creature that is like a god because it is so advanced, different, and 
in possession of such a peculiar body of information compared with our- 

Ralph Metzner: Another brief point about soma: Whatever soma 
was, why did it disappear? There are not any Stropharia cubensis or 
Amanita or any of these other hallucinogens in India now. If it is there, it 
is fairly remote and not a widespread thing like alcohol or wine, which 
became a widespread religious-social drug in all of Western culture. My 
theory about what happened then is the same as what happens now, 
that the use of soma, which was a genuine religious intoxicant in the 
sense that it produced a religious experience and direct knowledge of 
God, was stamped out systematically by the priesthoods, who were pri- 
marily intent upon maintaining their own power structure. If people 
could have a direct experience of God by taking mushrooms or any oth- 
er plant they would not be interested in priestly power structures — they 
couldn't care less. Why should they talk to a priest if they could talk di- 
rectly to God? 

TM: This is the deconditioning factor. 

Ralph Metzner: We saw in the sixties and we see now that the 
power holders in society do not want large numbers of people taking 
substances or plants that expand their consciousness. A few here or 
there do not bother them. But if it grows into large numbers that make a 
lot of noise, they don't want it. 

TM: That is why the vertical approach is better. Deeper experi- 
ences for a harder core. 

A Conversation Over Saucers 

N: IN THE two books that you have written 
you mention UFO influences. Would you explain 
just what you think a UFO is? 

WTM: In our first book, The Invisible 
Landscape, the UFO reference is scant indeed, 
touched on only once. I deliberately suppressed 
it because I thought the book was already lit up 
like a Christmas tree with bizarre ideas. I saved that particular ornament 
for its own treatment later, in the talking book True Hallucinations. It 
seems to me that with the tryptamine hallucinogens in general and with 
psilocybin in particular we actually experience a state of mind that is 
very similar to the state of mind reported to accompany the UFO con- 
tact. Shamanic states of mind and UFO contact can, somehow, be 
mapped onto each other. At active levels, psilocybin induces visionary 
ideation of spacecraft, alien creatures, and alien information. There is a 
general futuristic, science fiction quality to the psilocybin experience 
that seems to originate from the same place as the modern myth of the 

My brother and I discovered during our expedition to the 
Amazon in 1971 that accumulation of the tryptamines in one's system 
seems to confer the ability to inhabit more than one world at once, as 
though another world were superimposed over reality. This is a super- 
reality, a hyperdimensional world where information is accessible in 
magical ways. In the wake of our Amazonian discoveries, I surveyed the 

This interview appeared in the winter 1989 issue of Revision. Will Noffke con- 
ducted the interview. 



literature of mystical experience, UFO experiences, and occult systems 
such as alchemy. Eventually I saw that these different bodies of thought 
were all talking about the same thing. For modern people, the experi- 
ence that is gaining ascendancy is called "contact with the UFO," but it 
is not reducible to any of the explanations suggested by UFO experts 
and enthusiasts. It is not, strictly speaking, a contact from a space-faring 
race that has come from the stars, nor is it mass hysteria or delusion. 
There is, in fact, something very odd going on, something that is as chal- 
lenging to modem epistemologica} notions as a U.S. Air Force jet trans- 
port landing in a nearby field would be to uncontacted villagers in New 
Guinea. A very large percentage of people claim to have seen UFOs, yet 
science cannot explain them. It seems as though reality is haunted by a 
spinning vortex that renders science helpless. The spinning vortex is the 
UFO, and it comes and goes on a mass scale, haunting history like a 

I'm speaking specifically of the post-World War II spinning silver 
disc in the sky, and the accompanying myth of the pointed-eared, cat- 
eyed aliens. This myth has numerous variations, but it's clearly an idea 
complex emerging in the collective psyche. The question is, what is it? Is 
it prophecy? Is it a vision of the human future? What is it? The postmod- 
ern phase of UFO speculation recognizes that the UFO is no mere light 
seen in the sky, but that it is somehow mixed up with human psycholo- 
gy. Researchers have determined that people who have seen UFOs were 
in many cases thinking about something very odd and unusual immedi- 
ately prior to the sighting. The UFO seemed to act as a kind of ideologi- 
cal catalyst for some purpose. Jacques Vallee was the first person to 
suggest what I would call the "cultural thermostat theory" of UFOs, in a 
book called The Invisible College. He proposed that the flying saucer is an 
object from the collective unconscious of the human race that appears in 
"rder to break the control of any set of ideas that are gaining dominance 
in their explanatory power at the expense of ethics. It is a confounding 
that enters history again and again whenever history builds to a certain 
kind of boil. 

Colin Wilson suggests a similar idea in his novel The Mind 
Parasites, stating that the career of Christ was an earlier confounding in 
which Roman science and Roman militarism were unseated by a pecu- 
liar religion that no educated Roman could take seriously. Educated 
Romans were well versed in Democritean atomism, Epicureanism, and 
Sophism; yet their servants were telling stories about a rabbi who had 
risen from the dead and opened a gate that had been closed since cre- 
ation, permitting the soul of man to be reunited with God. Though these 
stories made no sense to the Roman authorities, their adherents quickly 
overwhelmed the empire. Today science has replaced Roman Imperial 



aspirations as the dominant mythos of control and thought; it offers neat 
and tidy explanations of the world. Yet the folk persist in telling stories 
of lights in the sky, strange beings, and bizarre encounters that cannot 
quite be laid to rest. 

My own personal encounter with a UFO has led me to view them 
as real, whatever "real" means. They are phenomenologically real. In 
fact, my contention is that psilocybin reveals an event at the end of histo- 
ry of such magnitude that it casts miniature reflections of itself back into 
time. These are the apocalyptic concrescences that haunt the historical 
continuum, igniting religions and various hysterias, and seeping ideas 
into highly tuned nervous systems. 

For the Eschaton, positioned in eternity, all things are somehow 
coexistent in time or outside of time. All events.have already happened. 
Shamanism is a formal technique for viewing this hyperdimensional ob- 
ject outside of time in a three-dimensional way, by transecting it many, 
many times until an entire picture of it emerges. The mushroom evokes 
a profound planetary consciousness that shows one that history is a 
froth of artifact production that has appeared in the last ten to fifteen 
thousand years and spread across the planet very quickly. But mind in 
human beings precedes the history of technology and goes back into the 
archaic darkness. 

One of the things we were saying in The Invisible Landscape is that 
there are avenues of understanding in the human body that have not 
been followed because of epistemological bias; for instance, using voice 
to effect physiological change in one's own nervous system. This sounds 
on one level preposterous, but on the other hand, it is simply a formal- 
ized way of noting the fact that sound is energy, that energy can be 
transduced in a number of ways, and that when it is directed toward the 
body it obviously does make changes. Chanting and singing are world- 
wide shamanic practices. The shamanic singers navigate through a space 
with which we have lost touch as a society. 

When the shaman's song fails, his world erupts into a situation of 
weakened psychic constitution that contains an element of "panic" in 
the mythological sense that evokes Pan bursting through from the un- 
derworld. The equivalent panic in our society is the emergence of the 
UFO as an autonomous psychic entity that has slipped from the control 
of the ego and approaches laden with the "Otherness" of the uncon- 
scious. As one looks into it one beholds oneself, one's world information 
field, all deployed in a strange, distant, almost transhumanly cool way, 
which links it to the myth of the extraterrestrial. The extraterrestrial is 
the human Oversoul in its general and particular expression on the plan- 
et. Though this doesn't rule out the faint possibility that the mushroom 
also places one in contact with extraterrestrials on planets circling other 


suns somewhere in the galaxy, it probably means that this communica- 
is mediated through the Oversoul. The Oversold is some kind of 
. that is generated by human beings but that is not under the control 
of any institution, any government, or any religion. It is actually the 
st intelligent life form on the planet, and it regulates human culture 
jgh the release of ideas out of eternity and into the continuum of 

The UFO is an idea intended to confound science, because science 
; begun to threaten the existence of the human species as well as the 
ecosystem of the planet. At this point, a shock is necessary for the culture, 
a shock equivalent to the shock of the Resurrection on Roman imperial- 
ism. The myths that are building now are like the messianic myths that 
preceded the appearance of Christ. They are myths of intervention by a 
\telligent entity that comes from the stars to reveal the right way 
The UFO would wreck science by a series of demonstrations de- 
. to convince the majority of humanity that the purpose of history is 
; less than total immersion in the teachings of the UFO. Once this 
ge is slammed home via worldwide TV broadcasts, the UFO might 
nply disappear. Following in the wake of such a departure would be a 
of abandonment similar to the hysteria of abandonment that 
the Christian communities after the Resurrection. The develop- 
ment of science would cease. The UFO-oriented religion would embody 
i archetype of enormous power, able to hold sway in the same way that 
stianicy halted the development of science for a thousand years. 

WN: Scientists are not going to like your opinion. 

TM: I think that to some degree science has betrayed human des- 
tiny. We have been led to the brink of star flight, but we've also been led 
to the brink of thermonuclear holocaust. The result of this betrayal is 
that science may well be swept away by the revelation of the UFO. 
Scientists have always been like the apostle Thomas, wanting to put 
their hands into the wound of the incorporeal body. If the wound is of- 
fered, if the saucer comes and is seen by millions of people, scientists 
will be the first to be converted. We should be forewarned and act now 
to preserve our freedom of thought by deconditioning ourselves to the 
lying saucer revelation before it happens. A religion operates by the law 
of large numbers, and, as long as 80 percent of the people believe, it can 
transform a civilization. But it is possible to be one of the 20 percent who 
don't believe, to stand where the high water never reaches. 

A voice that gave guidance and revelation to Western civilization 
has been silent for about seventeen hundred years. This is the Logos 
and all ancient philosophers strove to invoke it. For Hellenistic philoso- 



phy it was a voice that told self-evident truth. With the passing of the 
Aeon and the death of the pagan gods, awareness of this phenomenon 
faded. However, it is still available through the mediation of the plant 
teachers. If we could intelligently examine dimensions that the 
psychedelic plants make available, we could contact the Oversoul and 
leave behind this era where dominance hierarchies must be disciplined 
by UFOs and messiahs, and where progress is halted for millennia be- 
cause culture cannot advance ethics at the same rate as technology. If we 
could have a dialogue with the Other, we would understand all these 
things and begin to contact the Tao of the ancestors. Perhaps we would 
develop a shamanic alternative in which trained people mediate the 
group experience that is available from psychedelic plant use. 

We have ascertained by questionnaire that UFO contact is per- 
haps the motif most frequently mentioned by people who take psilocy- 
bin recreationally, using fifteen-milligram-range doses sufficient to elicit 
the full spectrum of psychedelic effects. They encounter another space 
with UFOs and aliens — classic little green men. DMT is similar. It also 
conveys one into wild, zany, elf-infested spaces. It's as though there 
were an alternative reality, linguistically as well as dimensionally. One 
tunes to a different language channel and then, with this language pour- 
ing through one's head, one can observe the other place. This alternative 
reality is surprisingly different from most cultural traditions that de- 
scribe what such realities are like. Nothing prepares one for its crackling, 
electronic, hyperdimensional, interstellar, extraterrestrial, science fiction 
quality; it is a complex space filled with highly polished curved surfaces, 
machines undergoing geometric transformations into beings, and 
thoughts that condense as visible objects. 

One recurring motif that is very interesting to me is the hyperdi- 
mensional language. On DMT one hears a language that is very faint 
and far away, and, as it gets louder and louder, without ever going over 
a quantifiable distinct transition, it becomes a phenomenon not of the 
audible field but of the visual field. It is, in fact, a fully evolving halluci- 
nation of extremely realistic and utterly bizarre proportions. It is an 
Arabian maelstrom of color and form, and one senses somehow the 
Sistine Chapel, the Kaaba, and Konarak. A hyperdimensional infundibu- 
lum, if you will. There is alien information deployed everywhere in that 
other space. The really astonishing thing is that human history and art 
reflect so little of it. 

WN: But they do — you do see it? 

TM: Oh, you see it, but very faintly. When you see the real thing 
you wonder, "My God, how do they keep the lid on this stuff?" It is rag- 


ing right next door. Modern epistemological methods are just not pre- 
fer dealing with chattering, elf-infested spaces. We have a word 
those spaces — we call them "schizophrenia" and slam the door. But 
lese dimensions have been with us ten thousand times longer than 
Freud. Other societies have come to terms with them. Because of acci- 
its of botany and history, European culture has been away from the 
irchedelic dimensions awhile. We have forgotten the dimension of the 
jtamines and psilocybin since at least the burning of Eleusis. We've 
iplished marvelous things with science and technology while other 
cultures around the world have kept the archaic flame burning. The 
disks that haunt the skies of earth indicate that the unconscious cannot 
: kept waiting forever. When we discover that the imagination really is 
! ground of being, then it will be as if man had discovered fire for the 
time. The imagination is to be the golden pathway to a new cul- 
1 hyperspace. 

WN: What, then, are we to do? 

TM: I think that the task of history is what 1 call turning our- 
/es inside out. The body is to be internalized and the soul exteriorized 
i a living golden disc. Yeats put it this way in "Sailing to Byzantium": 

O sages standing in God's holy fire 
As in the gold mosaic of a wall, 
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre. 
And be the singing-masters of my soul. 
Consume my heart away; sick with desire 
And fastened to a dying animal 
It knows not what it is; and gather me 
Into the artifice of eternity. 

phrase "the artifice of eternity" evokes a strangely mechanistic yet 
ritualistic future into which the archetype of the UFO is calling hu- 
lity. Over the course of ten thousand years, from the earliest ma- 
ss to the present, humanity is becoming a transplanetary creature. It 
s, as H. G. Wells said of history, "a race between education and catas- 
trophe." Increasingly destructive chemical and atomic processes are be- 
ing released, forcing the species to realize that its aspirations are alien to 
the ecology of the planet and that it and the planet must part. The trans- 
formation of humanity into a space-faring, perhaps time-faring, race is 
on a biological scale, the great goal of history. The coming of agriculture 
and urbanization are minor compared to what is going to happen to this 



species, to these monkeys, as they leave the planet with their computers 
and their dreams. 

Information is loose on planet three. Something unusual is going 
on here. The world is not made of quarks, electromagnetic wave packets, 
or the thoughts of God. The world is made of language. Language is 
replicating itself in DNA, which, at the evolutionary apex, is creating so- 
cieties of civilized beings that possess languages and machines that use 
languages. Earth is a place where language has literally become alive. 
Language has infested matter; it is replicating and defining and building 
itself. And it is in us. My voice speaking is a monkey's mouth making 
little mouth noises that are carrying agreed-upon meaning, and it is 
meaning that matters. Without the meaning one has only little mouth 
noises. Meaning is a crude form of telepathy — as you listen to my voice, 
my thoughts become your thoughts and we compare them. This is com- 
munication, understanding. Reality is a domain of codes, and that is 
why the UFO problem is like a grammatical problem — like a dangling 
participle in the fourth-dimensional language that makes reality. It 
eludes simple approaches because its nature is somehow embedded in 
the machinery of epistemic knowing itself. 

WN: So we won't be able to find it if we go into space? 

TM: No, it is within; it is the soul of us. We won't be able to find 
it until we somehow come to terms with the hidden part, the collective 
unconscious, the Overmind. We need to face the fact that there is a level 
of hierarchical control being exerted on the human species as a whole 
and that our destiny is not ours to decide. It is in the hands of a weirdly 
democratic, amoeboid, hyperintelligent superorganism that is called 
Everybody. As we come to terms with this, as we take our place embed- 
ded in the body of Everybody, information flows more freely and the re- 
ality of this informational creature is seen more clearly. The fact is that 
we are in a symbiotic relationship with an organism made of informa- 
tion, and this is the situation classic shamanic plant hallucinogens rein- 
force very strongly. 

If s in the psychedelic dimension that one finally can key into the 
voice of the organism and undertake a dialogue. Then it explains that 
things are not as you took them to be at all, and that there is in fact layer 
upon layer of interlocking meaning and very little else. The imagination 
is the true ground of being. There is a dimension parallel to time, out- 
side of time, that is accessible only to the degree that one can decondi- 
tion oneself from the history-bound cognitive systems that have carried 
one to this point. This is why it's always been said that the psychedelic 
experience acts as a sociological catalyst. 


WN: What are shamans? How does the shaman bring the mes- 
sage to the tribe? 

TM: The tribe is a system set up to receive the message. Our soci- 
ety has a different way of doing it: power elites in political control pass 
down state-approved philosophies that are then applied. 

WN: The state as shaman? 

TM: The state as shaman, the state as mediator of God's holy 
will, rather than a personal relationship — a Protestant approach, if you 
will — to the Overmind. The UFO represents an instance of crisis be- 
tween the individual and the Overmind, where the Overmind breaks 
through the oppressive screen thrown around it and comes to meet the 
individual. It is like an interview with an angel — or a demon. It is laden 
with intense psychological resonances for the person experiencing it; it is 
a profoundly numinous experience. 

WN: Every moment of recognizable creation, then, falls into the 
category of seepage from the Overmind, where you get a synthesis of in- 
formation that becomes your creative thought, your discovery of the 

TM: My theory of time mathematically formalizes the notion that 
novelty is the standing wave of eternity. Novelty seeps into time at a 
variable rate that can actually be mathematically described using the 
sforms inherent in the I Ching. The UFOs seem to come from eter- 
nity. They don't come from the stars unless they can move instantly to 
and from the stars. The UFOs come from another dimension; one could 
almost say they come from beyond death. They come from a dimension 
somehow totally different from our own, but tied up with the human 
psyche in a way that is puzzling, alarming, and reassuring — and 
lamanic. It is difficult to know to what degree nonparticipants in 
twentieth-century civilization perceive this. What is the experience of 
people who take mushrooms but have nothing to do with twentieth- 
century society? Have they always accepted, since Paleolithic times, the 
presence of a superfuturistic dimension? Perhaps in any century people 
have had this commerce with the end of time, with the far future. Yet 
now we have bootstrapped ourselves to the point that we can leave the 
planet, leave the monkey shell, leave all earthbound conceptions of our- 
selves behind, and push off into the pure imagination. 

See chapter 8, "Temporal Resonance." 


WN: Scary. 

TM: Scary. Gnostic. Perhaps, as someone said, "It sounds like 
megalomania to me, Martha." But we must ask how mad would the 
twentieth century have sounded recited to anyone in the nineteenth or 
the fifteenth? What it comes down to is trying to have faith that human 
beings are capable of doing good, because, whatever we are, human be- 
ings are taking control of the definition of being human. Through genet- 
ic engineering, through drug design, through probing of the psychedelic 
dimension, through mind/machine interphasing, we are beginning to 
become a mirror of our deepest aspirations. The question then becomes, 
"What are our deepest aspirations? What will the future be?" Will it be 
some kind of Mephistophelian nightmare, the Nietzschean superman 
come back to haunt us in a way that could make the Third Reich look 
like a picnic? Or will we choose the element of care and control, the aes- 
thetic element, the wish to escape into a universe that is, in fact, art? This 
is what is possible — that we could become inhabitants of our own imagi- 
nations. With the technology for building large habitats in space, it is 
possible to imagine the complete social galaxy of science fiction created 
in a region less than twelve light-hours in diameter with the sun at the 
center. One can imagine fifty or sixty thousand independent habitats 
pursuing social experiments of every sort, spatially independent, but 
electronically linked, in very long-term slow orbits from the near sun to 
the outer planets. 

Using current technology, we could, right now, produce the 
Hawaiian environment at distances up to fourteen light-hours away 
from the sun, which is several light-hours farther out than Pluto. That 
means the entire solar system has become habitable real estate, but only 
if we can transform the human imagination to realize that getting high is 
not a metaphor, getting high is what the whole human enterprise is 
about. It's true that the earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot re- 
main in the cradle forever. The universe beckons. It has been only a geo- 
logical moment since our shamanic ancestors began to munch the 
mushrooms and glimpse the vision of human beings radiating out 
through the galaxy as a perfected, superintelligent force for life. 
Postindustrial historical time is a fifteen-round slug-out that will decide 
whether or not that happens. 

WN: Is it not so that the muse is a sort of a catalyst of the imagi- 
nation, in a way, the source of inspiration? 

TM: Precisely, it's an ecstasy. The claim is made that these states 
can be attained in various ways. There are many different kinds of ecsta- 



s y, but the peculiar, extraterrestrial dimension that these tryptarnines 
convey one into is not the standard ecstasy of the mystics, or we would 
have more of a reflection of that in the mystical literature. In fact, one of 
e things most puzzling to me is why the bizarre motifs of the DMT 
have not made their way into any culture anywhere, as far as I'm 

WN: Does that imply that people were fearful of these visions 
they had them and so kept them undercover, thinking that they 
be going insane? 

TM: I think the change is so radical and the implication so hard 
to digest that — you're right — people either feel their own sanity is being 
threatened, or they recognize it as a challenge to the reality myth of their 
ty and so they repress it. It's very hard to assimilate these contra- 
dictory realities that throw into doubt everything one assumes about the 
reality one inhabits. What a strange, strange world it must be if there are 
alternative continua operating all around us filled with strange alien in- 
formation that is the product of its own history and has an appetite for 
its own future. 

WN: These are science fiction theories. I mean, one comes across 
ttering of these ideas here and there in fiction; yet you are saying 
they're real and that this is your mission — basically, your "rap." 

TM: I'm not saying mine is the only interpretation possible, but I 
am certainly saying that the shamanically sanctioned tryptamine com- 
"ds elicit an experience that is extremely peculiar and that has more 
"hip with the UFO experience than with classical, mystical expe- 
or with other hallucinogenic compounds, and that social atti- 
s and other factors have conspired to keep this under wraps. The 
connection has not been closely studied, because the people who 
are interested in flying saucers are not interested in psychedelics. The 
great majority of people interested in flying saucers are hardware nuts 
convinced that UFOs are ships from Zeta Reticuli. The shamanic and 
psychological explanation is not particularly welcome anywhere. 

Meanwhile, the community of psychedelic researchers feel them- 
to be laboring under enough of a stigma already, without allying 
themselves with flying saucer people, which would be like adding an al- 
batross to an anchor. Since I'm outside all of that, I can read and appreci- 
ate the work of researchers like Mircea Eliade but still feel critical that 
orthodox anthropological reporting on shamanism has not really come 
to grips with how strange the shamanic psychedelic experience really is. 


The psychedelic experience poses problems not only for the so-called 
primitive people who use these plants, it poses fundamental, equally 
deep problems for our society. We can no better assimilate the content of 
the psychedelic experience than can a villager in the New Guinea high- 
lands or a Witoto Indian in the Amazon. In fact, we have less of a basis 
for coming to terms with it; hence, our culture is in a very desperate cri- 
sis — a birth crisis and a terminal crisis. If we are not fully informed as to 
the nature of reality, we should correct that oversight. My motivation is 
to help make that correction. 

WN: Have you ever gone to these places with another human 
and actually been able to have a parallel, combined experience? 

TM: I think that happens. Certainly in taking ayahuasca with 
groups of people in the Amazon, when the shaman is singing, you defi- 
nitely have the feeling that you're all being carried through the same 
experiential topology and being shown the same things. Also when you 
take psilocybin with just one other person and you're lying together 
bemushroomed, you have the feeling that you're flowing together 
into a single act of perception. Sometimes one person can describe the 
vision and then trail off, and the other one can continue to describe 
the vision, and it all flows together. I am totally convinced that telepa- 
thy occurs on these compounds, though I'm not sure how to go about 
making it a repeatable phenomenon. 

Unfortunately for research into such phenomena, psilocybin was 
made illegal as an afterthought in a Luddite panic that saw most re- 
search psychedelics made illegal. It never had any independent hearing 
or examination — it was a hallucinogenic agent, therefore illegal. This has 
deprived it of the attention it deserves as a tool for throwing light on the 
psyche and for catalyzing the imagination. 

WN: How do you propose to reeducate people concerning these 

TM: What's always been lacking in psychedelic research is an ex- 
amination of the content of the experience, so we need to give these 
compounds to very intelligent people who are willing to work with 
them in situations other than a clinical setting. 

We must instead answer the question: How does this experience 
change people's lives when they are in an open, nonstressed environ- 
ment? In the Amazon, which is not exactly a nonstressed environment, 
we found that as we traveled up jungle rivers and contacted small vil- 
lages where plant hallucinogens were known and used, reality was 



transformed. Reality is truly a creature made of language and of linguis- 
s true hires that you carry, unbeknown to yourself, in your mind, and 
t under the influence of psilocybin these begin to dissolve and allow 
you to perceive beyond the speakable. The contours of the unspeakable 
begin to emerge into your perception, and though you can't say much 
about the unspeakable, it has power to color everything you do. You live 
with it; it is the invoking of the Other. The Other can become the Self, 
and many forms of estrangement can be healed. This is why the term 
alien has these many connotations. 

WN: What's the next step? 

TM: The next step is to confirm some of what I've said in order 
to form a consensus among groups of researchers and to then try to fig- 
ure out a strategy, chemical, clinical, or otherwise. 

WN: How would you set up such a research program? 

TM: It is important to give these compounds to volunteers, but 
also to give them to the researchers who are actually going to grapple 
with the problem. So much therapeutic talk orbits around the psychedel- 
ic experience, but how many therapists have had a psychedelic experi- 
ence? The early approach with psychedelics was the correct one. This is 
the notion that intelligent, thoughtful people should take psychedelics 
and try and understand what's going on. Not groups of prisoners, not 
graduate students, but mature, intelligent people need to share their ex- 
periences. It's too early for a science. What we need now are the diaries 
of explorers. We need many dairies of many explorers so we can begin 
to get a feeling for the territory. 

It is no coincidence that a rebirth of psychedelic use is occurring 
as we acquire the technological capability to leave the planet. The mush- 
room visions and the transformation of the human image precipitated 
by space exploration are spun together. Nothing less is happening than 
the emergence of a new human order. A telepathic, humane, universalist 
kind of human culture is emerging that will make everything that pre- 
ceded it appear like the Stone Age. 

WN: Does the Overmind, Oversoul, whatever, assimilate the per- 
sonal knowledge that's gained within one lifetime? 

TM: When consciousness is finally understood, it will mean that 
the absence of consciousness will be understood. The study of conscious- 
ness leads, inevitably, to the study of death. Death is both a historical and 



an individual phenomenon about which we, as monkeys, have great anx- 
iety. But what the psychedelic experience seems to be pointing out is that 
actually the reductionist view of death has missed the point and that 
there is something more. Death isn't simple extinction. The universe does 
not build up such complex forms as ourselves without conserving them 
in some astonishing and surprising way that relates to the intuitions that 
we have from the psychedelic experience. The UFO comes from this 
murky region, beyond the end of history, beyond the end of life. It is both 
suprahistorical and supraorganic. It is uncanny, alien; it raises the hair on 
the back of one's neck. It is both the apotheosis and the antithesis of the 
monkey's journey toward mind. It is the mind revealing itself. This is 
what all religion is about: shock waves given off by an event at the end of 
history. We are now very close to that event, and psilocybin can help us 
to understand it because psilocybin conveys one into the place where it is 
happening constantly. The Aeon, eternity, and the millennium are ac- 
complished facts, not an anticipation. Hence the mushroom stands at the 
end of history. It stands for an object that pulls all history toward itself. 
It's a causal force that operates upon us backward through time. It is why 
things happen the way they do; because everything is being pulled for- 
ward toward a nexus of transformation. 

Alien Love 

THE IDEA of sexual relationships between human and 
nonhuman beings is a persistent subtheme through 
much of mythology. Ralph Metzner reminded me that 
in the Old Testament it says, "And the gods found the 
daughters of men fair." The Persephone myth is a good 
example of this. Another example that should be men- 
tioned are the incubi and succubi of medieval mytholo- 
gy. These were male and female spirits that were 
thought to come to people in the night and have intercourse with them. 
This was thought to be very bad for one's health, and general wasting 
diseases were often explained by invoking this phenomenon. 

Recently the flying saucer phenomenon has begun to take on a 
new character — an erotic dimension. There is no hint of this kind of thing 
in the early literature, meaning from 1947 through 1960. But now it seems 
to be a rising theme. Though this idea is the darling of a screwball fringe, 
it represents an interesting developing folkway that we can learn from. 

It's only in the last sixty years, since the discovery of DNA and 
- the Hertzsprung-Russell equation, that we have begun to get an idea of 
the true size of the universe. Until then, the notion of extraterrestrial life 
and extraterrestrial intelligence could not even be coherently framed. 
Before that time, humanity's relationships with transhuman intelligence 
tended to be demonic or angelic and fall into those categories of beings 
that occupied levels above and below us in the hierarchy of being. These 
beings were all terrestrial in some sense. But science, by clarifying the 

More about UFOs, this from a talk at Shared Visions in Berkeley. An edited and 
revised transcript 1 



nonuniqueness of biology and giving us an idea of whaf s going on in 
the galaxy and beyond, has validated the notion that life is ubiquitous 
and that intelligence is a property that accompanies life and is probably 
common in the universe. This legitimates fantasy about the existence of 
extraterrestrial intelligence. In the last half of the twentieth century, the 
mythological outlines of what the alien must be are being cast. The ex- 
pectations of a public who has been given the rudimentary knowledge 
of biology and astronomy allows the thing to be conceived. Public ex- 
pectations are casting the extraterrestrial archetype into a mold that it 
will hold until it is confirmed or denied by true extraterrestrial contact, 
whatever that means. 

We now know enough to fantasize realistically about what an 
alien might be like, and this sets up polarities in the collective psyche 
that previously we have seen only at the level of the individual. What 
the developing archetype of the extraterrestrial "Other" means, and the 
source of our fascination with it, is that, collectively, for the first time we 
are beginning to yeam. This new collective yearning is happening in re- 
ligion on a very broad scale. The previous concerns of salvation and re- 
demption are shifting into the background for the great majority of 
people, and what is driving religious feeling is a wish for contact — a re- 
lationship to the Other. The alien then falls into place in that role; the 
alien fulfills it. I believe that if religion survives into the long centuries of 
the future, this will be its compelling concern — an attempt to define a 
collective relationship with the Other that assuages our yearning and 
our feeling of being cast out or, as Heidegger says, "cast into matter, 
alone in the Universe." 

It's as though by passing into the psychedelic phase — the space- 
faring phase — the entire species were passing into adolescence and be- 
coming aware of the possibility of something like a sexual completion 
with an Other, with an intelligent, nonhuman species. This is an idea 
that had previously been masked for us in our collective pre- 
pubescence or polymorphically perverse phase, during which we were 
self-absorbed. One dimension of the culture crisis is a collective erotic 
drive for a connection with the Other. 

To sum up what I've said about religion, it is as though the 
Father-God notion were being replaced by the alien-partner notion. The 
alien-partner is like the angelic tetramorph. It is androgynous, 
hermaphroditic, transhuman; it is all these things that the unconscious 
chooses to project upon it until we have enough information to define 
what it might actually be for itself. 

Eventually this contact will occur. We are now in the pubescent 
stage of yearning, of forming an image of the thing desired. This image 
of the thing desired will eventually cause that thing to come into being. 
In other words, our cultural direction is being touched by the notion of 


alien love, and it comes to us through the rebirth of the use of plant hal- 
lucinogens. The shamanic vision plants seem to be the carriers of this 
pervasive entelechy that speaks and that can present itself to us in this 
particular way. 

The appetite for this fusion is what is propelling global culture to- 
ward an apocalyptic transformation. It isn't recognized as that in the cul- 
ture yet, but nevertheless it is this fascination with the Other that 
propels us forward- Culturally we are growing toward the potential for 
falling in love, but then if there is no one to love this potential can turn 
to rancor and disillusionment. We have embarked on the exploration of 
a unique historical opportunity in which for the first time the issue of 
the Other is being fully constellated and dealt with by the species. The 
question is being asked, "Are we alone?," and though we now focus on 
that question, we need to think beyond that to what if we are not alone. 
Then what becomes the next imperative question? It is obviously the ex- 
ploration of the relationship to the Other, part of which has an erotic 

We will discover, as soon as communication is even remotely 
possible, that we are obsessed with it. It becomes very important to 
know whether or not we are alone. It becomes very important to open a 
dialogue if any dialogue is possible. I think that at this stage the facts are 
secondary to the description of what is going on. In other words, this op- 
tion could slip away from us. It is a potential that has drifted near the 
historical continuum, and if it is invoked by enough people, it will be- 
come a fact. But it could also slip away. We could harden; there are 
dominator, hypertechnological futures that we could sail toward and re- 
alize. That would eliminate this possibility of opening to the Other. 

I always try to define for myself what the historical importance of 
psychedelics is, because we know that shamans have used these plants 
for millennia and have plumbed these depths as individuals. Still, I al- 
ways have the intuition that there is a historical impact of some sort, and 
I think this is it: that we are actually positioned to attempt something 
that has never been attempted before, to open a dialogue as a collectivity 
with the Other and to use that synergy to bootstrap ourselves to a new 
cultural level. There isn't a great deal of talk about it; this intuition exists 
at the folk level. None of the managerial or analytical elements in society 
are looking at this at the moment. But it is forming and crystallizing in 
the background. 

Contact with extraterrestrials and voices in the head and Logos- 
like phenomena are not a part of the general mythology of LSD. Certain 
exceedingly intense individuals may have achieved this intermittently, 
but it is not something that is attached to the notion of what LSD does to 
you. With psilocybin, on the other hand, it definitely is. Our survey 
showed that as people's doses increased, their susceptibility to this phe- 



n increased markedly. The issue of contact with the extraterres- 
for large numbers of people has been broached by mushrooms. It's 
very puzzling to people, because our expectations are always that we 
cells in a vast societal animal and that the news of anything truly im- 
t will be conveyed electronically to us. That if flying saucers land, 
president and the secretary-general of the United Nations will con- 
the word to us. But the challenge of the psychedelics is to realize 
the potential for an alchemical wedding with the alien exists now. It 
a tribal phenomenon that is happening as an experience at the individ- 
1 level. People in the confines of their own apartments are becoming 
gellans of the interior world, reaching out to this alien thing, begin- 
ning to map invisible landscapes and to bring back stories that can only 
compared to the kind of stories that the chroniclers of the New World 
.ught back to Spain at the close of the fifteenth century. Stories of in- 
ert gods, starships, unfathomable wisdom, endless realities. 

Many times I've spoken of the psychedelic experience as a land- 
_c~pe and as a confidant— a kind of girl Friday who tells you things. But 
another facet of it is the erotic element. There is no other word for it, be- 
cause it inspires a feeling of opening and merging that is, in our cultural 
conditioning, what we associate with Eros. To distinguish it from ordi- 
nary love I always think of it as LUV. It's the kind of love that you get 
with the alien. What it means is that the relationship to the alien can be 
" ought of as modeled on the relationships to the Other that each of us 
'rrms through relating to other people. This is similar to the Jungian no- 
~n of the Conunctio, a situation in which two people get together and 
y to function as alchemical mirrors for each other. Tantra and Taoist 
sexual practices also have to do with fusing into dyads. In that situation 
each party to the fact is taking on the quality of the other. In a nonerotic 
context that's called becoming what you behold. 

We are uniquely susceptible to becoming what we behold. This is 
why we have always been led into the future by our imaginations; be- 
cause we dream and then we realize the dreams. This fact about our 
monkeyhood, when put in combination with a relationship with an alien 
mind, means that we will become the Other we behold. This is, in fact, 
what I think is happening. The curious intimations of the deepening 
contact with the Other make it seem probable to me that we are in love, 
but we're only slowly realizing this because we've never been in love be- 
fore. So articulating this kind of idea, one person saying it to another 
and discussing it, is actually an attempt to conjure this into being — to 
"_22 it forth and make this supposition become fact. Because all facts are 
the suppositions of very large numbers of people, the fate of this 
"chetype now hangs in the balance. 

There is tension around the flying saucer, aside from the erotic 
ation, because the flying saucer represents a tremendous chal- 



lenge to science, perhaps the ultimate challenge. It may be as confound- 
ing to science as the resurrection of Christ was to Greek empiricism and 
Roman imperialism. The flying saucer is essentially an agent of cultural 
change. On the level of the machine, it bids distress for our most cher- 
ished explanatory schema, but on the level of the alien as flesh, it pre- 
sents a much more basic and fundamental challenge, because the erotic 
complex is being redefined by this phenomenon. 

Many people take LSD, and yet it's very difficult to get precise 
numbers on this matter because people don't talk about it. Yet in the last 
fifteen years, sexual researchers have had a field day because people are 
very, very willing to discuss their bizarre sexual peculiarities and to 
pour out their hearts to people with clipboards. So we now know a great 
deal about human sexuality. I suggest that our taboos are on the move. 
They are moving so that as we become more sexually polymorphic and 
open with each other and our ego is less identified with our sexuality, 
we become very private and constrained, secretive and religious about 
our psychic experiences, particularly the psychedelic experiences. We 
are much more open with each other sexually and in our examination of 
our libidinal drives, but the taboo has now moved to this interior world 
where we have an adolescent sensitivity about our developing relation- 
ship to the Other. 

These attitudes are elements in the emerging human future, a hu- 
man future that is accelerating exponentially. It is not a mere linear 
propagation of the present; peculiar factors are impinging on it: 
psychedelic substances, the ability to erect large structures in deep 
space, the presence of the alien Logos in the mind of the collectivity, the 
presence of the cybernetic network that is developing, the politics of 
feminism — all these things are going toward release of humanity into 
the imagination. To date, the cultural engineers have not stressed 
enough that the erotic element be included in the design of the human 

Let me sum up by saying that there is an emerging Zeitgeist of hy- 
perspace. I call it a Zeitgeist of hyperspace because electronic culture will 
add another dimension whose effects will reverberate at every level. We 
are now living in a hyperdimensional collectivity, not only of earth and 
space but of information of past and future, of conscious and uncon- 
scious. The technological culmination of this is the projection of human 
consciousness into whatever form it seeks to take. The Zeitgeist of hyper- 
space that is emerging, initially freighted with technology and cybernet- 
ics, requires that it be consciously tuned to an erotic ideal. It is important 
to articulate the presence of this erotic ideal of the Other early. This is an 
opportunity to fall in love with the Other, get married, and go off to the 
stars; but it's only an opportunity and not evolutionarily necessary. 

If we only live with the ideal of the Other and never find and fuse 
with the Other, we 



us. But if the opportunity is seized, if we take seriously the experience of 
the last ten millennia and complete the modern program of realizing the 
ideals of the Archaic Revival, recognizing that what the twentieth centu- 
ry really is about is an effort to establish and perfect the ideals of late 
Paleolithic shamanism, then we will have acted with integrity in relating 
to this opportunity and we guarantee ourselves a grand and peculiar 
historical adventure — which I cheer for. 

Q: Could you say a bit more about the role of the psychedelic ex- 

TM: Once we set ourselves the task of describing the psychedelic 
experience, it will become more accessible, because if we each gave our 
best metaphor and then all used those metaphors to produce a better 
metaphor, we eventually would retool our language so that we would 
be able to handle these modalities. And this will happen. Historically, 
the psychedelic experience is a new object for the Western languages. It 
will be very interesting to see what English, the language of Milton, 
Chaucer, and Shakespeare, will be able to do with the psychedelic expe- 
rience. In William Blake you get the feeling that English can do stagger- 
ing things with it. Passages in Andrew Marvell imply the same. 

The relationship of the psychedelic experience to literature is a 
whole field unto itself; there are certain moments where great literature 
has passed near it. Flaubert's Temptation of Saint Anthony got it, very suc- 
cinctly. Huysman's Against the Grain is an amazing novel about a man 
who is so sensitized to perception that he can't leave his apartments. He 
has his walls covered in felt and keeps the lights very low. He collects 
Redon when nobody had ever heard of Redon. He buys turtles and has 
jewels affixed to their backs. Then he sits in a half-lit room and smokes 
hashish and watches the turtles crawl around on his Persian rugs. Let's 
all go home and do this. 

Q: I'm curious about whether the chemical induction is neces- 
sary. I've been exploring vision through dream work and it seems 
promising. In sleep we see a lot of things. 

TM: Yes, I think dreaming and states of psychedelic intoxication, 
possibly the after-death state, possibly the postapocalypse state for the 
collectivity, all these are related to each other. Certainly dreaming is the 
natural access point, because it's a part of everyday experience. But 
these places are what's called state-bounded. It's very hard to bring back 
information — you have to have a natural inclination or a technique. It 
doesn't matter whether you are using psychedelics or yoga or dream- 
manipulation; it's just a matter of exploring the mind by whatever 



is the high point of production of endogenous hallucinogens, such as 
DMT and beta-carbolines, in the human brain. Nevertheless, it's only m 
the wildest dreams, which are necessarily the most difficult to recover, 
that one passes into places that are like DMT and psilocybin ecstasy. 
Yoga makes the claim that it can deliver you into these spaces, but peo- 
ple have different proclivities for these altered states of consciousness. 
It's very hard to move me off the baseline of consciousness. I am very 
stolid and set in the here and now. So plants work better than anything 
else for me. I scoured India and could not convince myself that it wasn't 
a shell game of some sort or was any more real than the states manipu- 
lated by the various schools of New Age psychotherapy. 

But in the Amazon and other places where plant hallucinogens 
are understood and used, you are conveyed into worlds that are ap- 
pallingly different from ordinary reality. Their vividness cannot be 
stressed enough. They are more real than real. And that's something that 
you sense intuitively. They establish an ontological priority. They are 
more real than real, and once you get that under your belt and let it rat- 
tle around in your mind, then the compass of your life begins to spin 
and you realize that you are not looking in on the Other; the Other is 
looking in on you. This is a tremendous challenge to the intellectual 
structures that have carried us so far during the last thousand years. We 
can do tricks with atoms; there's no question about that. But these tricks 
immolate us. The higher-order structure of molecules, let alone or- 
ganelles and that kind of thing, is intellectual terra incognita to us; we 
have no notion of how these things work or what is going on. Yet it is 
from those levels that the constituent modalities of reality are being laid 
down. What do I mean by that? I mean that you can understand all this 
fine nuclear chemistry about the atom, but where does it put you if you 
are an intellectual? The story you tell yourself about how the world 
works can't explain to you how forming the wish to close your open 
hand into a fist makes it happen. This is the true status of present sci- 
ence. It cannot offer so much as a clue about how that happens. 
Scientists know how muscles contract — all Ihal they know. It's the initi- 
ating phenomenon, that which decides "I will close my hand." They 
know as much about that as — and perhaps less than — Western or 
Eastern philosophy knew in the twelfth century. 

And it is at that level, at the level of the body experience and the 
mind experience, that we operate. You can live in the social and reli- 
gious system of Hellenistic Greece and offer sacrifice to Demeter, or you 
can live in twentieth-century America and watch the evening news, but 
you should have no faith that you are getting the true story on reality. 
These are just historical contexts that can be transcended only by the ac- 
quisition of gnosis, knowledge that is experienced as self-evidently true. 



It's hard for people to even realize what I might be talking about be- 
cause they believe that something like logical consistency or ability to be 
reduced to mathematical formalism is how you judge the efficacy of an 
idea. Ideas such as that are what led us into this extremely alienated 
Btate. We haven't demanded that the stories we tell ourselves about how 
the world works confirm our direct experience of how it works. The 
psychedelic substances, by focusing attention on the mind-body-brain 
interactions, are reframing these questions. And not a moment too soon, 
because the cybernetic and technical capabilities of this society demand 
that this all be looked at very clearly or we're just going to sail right off 
the moral edge of things and into the abyss. 


Q: Could you comment further on the interaction between vari- 
ous sexual yogas and the psychedelic experience or intoxication as 
tools — as in effect potential tools for approaching the kind of extraterres- 
trial eroticism you're talking about? 

TM: Certainly. You have all kinds of things going on when peo- 
ple are having sexual intercourse. The physiological state is one of acti- 
vation, there's production of pheromones. I've noticed on psilocybin 
that there is a disappearance of normal resistance across a membrane, 
especially if there is perspiration, so that two people with large amounts 
of skin in contact become one entity. I'm convinced enough of this that I 
would suggest to Masters and Johnson, or whoever has license to do 
these kinds of things, to check it out if they are serious about validating 
telepathy. This is a very simple experiment. 

Taoist sexual practices lay a lot of stress on the generation of un- 
usual substances in the genitals or in the perspiration, which is a theme 
that is absent from Indian yoga but that is picked up in Amazonian 
shamanism, where there is a lot of discussion of magical forms of perspi- 
tation, magical objects that are generated out of the body or put into the 
: es of other people. 

In the matter of Taoist alchemy, it appears that there was an erot- 
ic control language, so that much of what appear to be prescriptions for 
sexual practices are actually recipes for plant combinations, because 
words that were used with sexual connotations were also code words 
for plants and fungi. The association in the Taoist mind between the fun- 
gi and the feminine genitalia was very close. The words and the con- 
cepts are the same. This is a prevailing motif of the so-called esoteric 
schools of Chinese eroticism, meaning the schools where actually noth- 
ing appears to be going on, but the presence of certain plants and certain 
objects in a composition indicate that it actually is an erotic cryptogram 
of some sort. 



Q: Could it be that the natural psychedelics that exist on the 
planet are a kind of love offering from the Other to us with which, when 
we accept them, we can develop that bond sought by the Other? 

TM: I have spoken about extraterrestrial contact and the relation- 
ship to the psilocybin mushrooms. I've mentioned that psilocin, which is 
what psilocybin quickly becomes as it enters your metabolism, is 4 hy- 
droxy dimethyl tryptamine. It is the only 4-substituted indole in all of or- 
ganic nature. Let this rattle around in your mind for a moment. It is the 
only 4-substituted indole known to exist on earth. It happens to be this 
psychedelic substance that occurs in about eighty species of fungi, most 
of which are native to the New World. Psilocybin has a unique chemical 
signature that says, "I am artificial; I come from outside." I was suggest- 
ing that it was a gene — an artificial gene — carried perhaps by a space- 
borne virus or something brought artificially to this planet, and that this 
gene has insinuated itself into the genome of these mushrooms. 

It is an unresolved problem in botany why there is such a tremen- 
dous concentration of plant hallucinogens in the New World — in North 
and South America. Africa, which is where man is generally thought to 
have arisen and gone through his formative cultural development, is the 
poorest of all continents in hallucinogens. The New World is very, very 
rich, and this is why hallucinogenic shamanism is so highly developed 
in the New World. So, yes: the fact that the psilocybin compound is 
chemically unique, the fact that it induces this Logos-like experience, 
causes me at least to entertain the possibility that this is an extraterrestri- 
al contact and that the notion of extraterrestrials, as we have previously 
conceived them, as someone from far away who would come in ships 
and get in touch with us, is an obsolete notion. 

As human history goes forward, we develop the linguistic dis- 
crimination to be able to recognize the extraterrestrials that are already 
insinuated into the planetary environment around us, some of which 
may have been here millions and millions of years. In other words, 
space is not an impermeable barrier to life; there is slow drift. There is 
genetic material that is transferred through space and time over vast dis- 

Operationally, I deal with the mushroom that way. It may well be 
an adumbration or some slice of the human collectivity, but since it pre- 
sents itself as the Other, I treat it as the Other. Sometimes, as I have said, 
it is my colleague, and sometimes it is my Jewish godfather, and some- 
times it is what Jung called the soror mystica, and what my brother, 
Dennis, called the sore mistress. It all has to do with changing our pre- 
conceptions of things so that the idea that a mushroom could be an intel- 
ligent extraterrestrial, which is preposterous from one point of view, can 



occurs by simply shifting language around; the evidence has been left 

The evidence is equally friendly to either point of view because 
the evidence is so impersonal — science is totally impersonal. The empiri- 
cal evidence that the mushroom is an extraterrestrial is thin and circum- 
stantial. But the subjective experience of those who have formed a 
relationship with it overwhelmingly supports that view. This, then, is 
where we have ideas in competition. The evolution of points of view 
through time. That's why I say the opportunity should not be missed to 
open a cultural dialogue concerning this phenomenon among ourselves, 
and with the thing itself. It's a unique opportunity. 

Q: I'm going to ask you to speculate just for a minute. 

TM: I never speculate. 

Q: Just try. Given that we are led by our imaginations into the 
future, and that facts are indeed suppositions that are agreed upon by a 
large group of people, how many people do you suppose it would take 
to agree on these facts and what sort of rituals or ceremonies would be 
required to align everybody's thinking to agree on specific elements of 
the invisible landscape to the point where it would be possible to retool 
the language to accommodate the new visions and take advantage of 
opportunity to perfect the Paleolithic ideals of shamanism? 

TM: I don't know. Maybe there's a critical 5 percent, or some- 
thing like that. Political revolutions are made by 10 percent. Psilocybin 
mushrooms have emanated throughout society. In the last eight years 
we have undergone something like a second neolithic revolution. The 
first neolithic revolution was the invention of agriculture; the second 
neolithic revolution was the invention of home fungus cultivation. 
Suddenly, twenty or thirty species of psilocybin-containing mush- 
rooms, which were previously rarely met forest endemics or the co- 
prophilic kinds of mushrooms — the ones that grew on the dung of 
cattle — all of which had restricted endemic zones of occupation, these 
all have become available. Stropharia cubensis, the most ubiquitous in 
the natural state, was before the invention of human cultivation a rare 
tropical mushroom. Now it grows from Nome to Tierra del Fuego in 
every attic, basement, and garage around. The strategy by which the 
mushroom conquers society is exactly the same strategy by which the 
mycelium spreads across a petri dish; it simply moves out in all direc- 
tions. My brother and I wrote the book Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom 
Grower's Guide in 1975. It sold a hundred thousand copies. We had com- 
petition from Bob Harris, who also wrote a cultivation book. Jonathan 


Ott wrote a book. So did Gary Menser and Stephen Pollock. Spore com- 
panies sprang up; it's very hard to imagine how many people are doing 

I'm very bullish on psilocybin. I think that the word "drug" is in- 
appropriate and that the model of hallucinogenic substances that we 
have inherited from our experience with LSD is completely inade- 
quate — that the fact that LSD is our model hallucinogen for doctors and 
researchers is only a historical accident. It was discovered first, or char- 
acterized first, in the laboratory, and then millions and millions of peo- 
ple took it. It's active in the one hundred-gamma range, whereas 
psilocybin is active at fifteen milligrams. Millions and millions of people 
were able to be touched by LSD. I don't think that mass drug taking is a 
good idea. But I think that we must have a deputized minority — a 
shamanic professional class, if you will — whose' job is to bring ideas out 
of the deep, black water and show them off to the rest of us. Such people 
would perform for our culture some of the cultural functions that 
shamans performed in preliterate cultures. 

I like the plant hallucinogens. I think that a true symbiosis is hap- 
pening there. LSD was a thing of the laboratory. Psilocybin is a creature 
of the forests and fields. When we propagate it, when we spread it, 
when it stones us, there is a reciprocal relationship and transfer of ener- 
gy and information. This is a true symbiosis. Both parties are gaining; 
nobody is giving up anything. We have domesticated many plants and 
animals; that's not big news. But this is not a walnut or an apple; it isn't 
even a cat or a dog; it may be smarter than we are. So the implications of 
this relationship have to be couched in at least human terms, and that's 
why the erotic metaphor is not inappropriate. 

Q: If psychedelic substances were legal and this were a class in 
introductory psychedelic appreciation, what do you suppose our first 
assignment would be? 

TM: From me? I guess I would have you plant some seeds and 
read some history; when you had read the history and grown the seeds 
(and I don't know what they would be— morning glory seeds or the 
spores of mushrooms), when you had assimilated and cared for the 
plant and brought it to its fullest self-expression of fruitful production of 
alkaloids, then you would be at the threshold of your career and I would 
adjourn the class. 

Appreciation of history is very important to doing well in the 
psychedelic experience. Psilocybin shows you movies of history; it sees 
us as historical creatures. It has this above-everything point of view 
where it isn't dealing in the slice of the moment. It's dealing with the 



phenomenon of the monkeys over the last million years; that is how it 
sees us. You can assimilate some of its viewpoints by having a real feel- 
ing for the ancestors, all the people who are dead and the people who 
went before. What a long, strange trip it's been, you know — from the 
re paintings at Altamira to the doorway of the starship. And now we 
id on that threshold, hand in hand with this strange new partner; out 
of historical change comes the unexpected. The problem of the Other, 
the need for the Other, the presence of the Other, the nature of the 
Other — these are the questions and the concerns that will drive the next 
■ of human knowing. 

Q: You don't preclude at all the possibility that the yearning for 
the Other is just a yearning for the Self— that the Other really is an 
undisclosed Self. 

TM: No, I don't. In fact, I said at the beginning that the nature of 
the archetype is being set now in the light of scientific knowledge con- 
cerning other intelligence in the universe. It's a combination of our need 
for connection and science giving its blessing to this form of expression 
of that need that is creating the potential phenomenon of alien love. We 
don't know what the Self is; Buddhism says that everything is bodhi- 
mind; that means that there could be extraterrestrials, and if it's true that 
everything is bodhi-mind, they too are an aspect of the Self. This word 
"Self" is as great a mystery as the word "Other." It's just a polarity be- 
tween two mysteries and then the thin, thin myths that are spun to hold 
you suspended there without freaking out. The myths of science and re- 
ligion and shamanism all represent a polarity between the mystery of 
the Self and the mystery of the Other — and remember a mystery is not to 
be confused with an unsolved problem; a mystery is by its nature myste- 
rious and will not collapse into solution. We are unfamiliar with that 
kind of thing. We think that if there's a mystery, then experts of whatev- 
er kind can get it straightened out and issue a report. But this approach 
only works for trivia. And what's important — our hearts, our souls, our 
hopes, our expectations — is completely mysterious to us. So how must 
they appear, then, to the Other, if it truly is Other? 

We need to cultivate a sense of mystery. The mystery is not only 
in the Other; it is in us. This reverberates again with the idea that we be- 
ie what we behold. The nature of history is suddenly transforming 
in the postquantum physics, postmodern phase; this was not expected. 
The nineteenth century, the early twentieth century — they didn't realize 
this was what they were pointed into. Although some few people, the 
'Pataphysicians, the surrealists, saw what was coming. But now here 
we are. 



Q: The discussion earlier of how the mushroom was likely seed- 
ed from afar reminded me of the pan-spermia theory — of the idea that 
life itself was sent and that we were all sent down here together. 

TM: Yes, I should have mentioned that theory because it is the 
best support I have for the idea 1 was putting forth. The pan-spermia 
theory was formulated by Cyril Ponnamperuma, who was the 
discoverer, along with James Watson and Francis Crick, of DNA. 
Ponnamperuma and Crick are proposing a much more radical theory 
than what I put forth, at least in terms relative to biology. They are say- 
ing that prebiotic molecules arise in the greatest numbers in deep space, 
not on the surfaces of planets. That planets are only biologically impor- 
tant at a late stage in the development of complex polymers and prebiot- 
ic compounds. I'm sure you know the old adage'that we each are made 
of stars, that the atoms in your bodies were once cooked in the hearts of 
stars. This is true, but an unremarked accompanying necessity of that 
fact would be that there must, therefore, be some atoms in your body 
that were not cooked in the heart of stars but were part of the planets 
that circled around those stars before they exploded. 

My point being that not all of this material that is circulated in the 
galaxy has been through something as violent as nuclear burning at the 
heart of a star. When stars go nova, their planets are blown to pieces, 
and if biotic material has evolved on those planets it is injected into the 
general cosmic soup of circulating material. That is more my idea of 
what the spore strategy may have originally been about. The spore 
evolved in very harsh environments where seeds could not survive. 
Mushroom spores survive best in an environment as much like that of 
deep space as possible. Ideal is a total vacuum at minus sixty degrees 
centigrade. There they last virtually forever. The logic of the case is well 
founded. What is on much shakier ground, of course, is the idea that the 
mushroom is an intelligent life form. That's my special obsession and 
province. Most people say I'm welcome to it. 

It's very interesting that in a book called Scientific Perspectives on 
Extraterrestrial Communication by Cyril Ponnamperuma, there is an arti- 
cle by R. N. Bracewell, an astrophysicist, who talks about the logic of 
searches for intelligent life. He concludes that no matter what kind of life 
form you are, no matter what kind of technology you have, if you are se- 
riously going to search space by physically sending probes from one star 
to another, then the only strategy that would work would be what is 
called a von Neumann machine, meaning a machine that can reproduce 
itself. Four of these machines are sent out in four opposed directions 
from a parent star. At a certain distance from the parent star, each ma- 
chine replicates, giving eight machines. At double that distance, they 



replicate again, giving sixteen machines, and so on. The notion is that 
only by this process of replication can all bets be covered. And then 
what you do is send an initial contact message that says, "We are search- 
ing the galaxy for intelligence by an exhaustive means. If you read this 
message, please call the following, toll-free number and we will initiate 
contact." Only in this way could you hope to have contact with all the 
habitable worlds in the galaxy. This scenario makes clear that it may be 
very important to understand what the message is that the mushroom 

The Mandaeans, an obscure religious cult of Gnostics in the 
Middle East of very long survivability, believe that at the end of time 
what they call the Secret Adam will come to earth. The Secret Adam is a 
messiahlike figure, but he builds a machine that then transmits all the 
souls back to their hidden source in the All-Father outside of the ma- 
chinery of cosmic fate. This notion of the messiah building a machine is 
very interesting. It's conceivable that if there is an extraterrestrial mes- 
sage in our environment, it is a message to build some kind of device so 
that a less tenuous form of communication can be opened up. Bracewell 
makes this point; to him this is inherent in the logic of the situation. 

It would be an interesting branch of logic— the logic of protocols 
of extraterrestrial contact. What can we define about contact that is so 
basic that whatever form of life and intelligence you were, you would 
have to flow along those creodes? This is probably an undeveloped field 
at this point, but it certainly could be done. It's like alternative physics. 
We need alternative theories of social contact and social contract-making 
in the event that we meet an extraterrestrial. This is a fertile theme in sci- 
ence fiction, the logic of contact, how to make it without giving away too 
much and yet still get something out of it. It's poker, but the stakes are 
very high. We're talking survivability, viability, and evolutionary fates 
of species, if not entire planets. 

Q: I would like to ask whether you see a difference with what 
you're doing with your life and what a shaman would do? The last time 
I heard you speak, you said you didn't consider yourself a shaman. 

TM: The primary characteristic of shamans are that they cure. In 
other words, they perform a medical function. If I'm performing a medi- 
cal function, it is a fairly curious one. That's how I differentiate, because 
I respect that and it is often lost sight of. People think of the psychedelic 
plants and the magic and the magical feats, but they forget the curing. In 
Carlos Castaneda's work I don't think anybody cures anybody in about 
twelve hundred pages of material; nevertheless, classically and statisti- 
cally, shamans are healers. I think there is something called "lived 



shamanic ideals," which is what I'm trying to do — to try to explore reali- 
ty with a shamanic spirit and by shamanic means. But the curing is the 
sine qua non of shamanism. 

Q: Could you give me your best understanding of what space is 
from the psychedelic perspective and the differentiation between inner 
mental space and outer physical space, and the validity of that differen- 
tiation? just the relationship between space in general and conscious- 

TM: The world is reconstructed in the mind through the input of 
sensation. The sensation is canalized through the preceptors so that 
we're getting at least three or four lines of unrelated input, or it's gener- 
ally thought of as unrelated. But the body is the interface between the 
mind and the world, and language seems to be the through-put from the 
mind to the world and then from the world back into the mind. As for 
space — there is this curious thing in biology: The earliest forms of 
life had no perception of the world at all. If food was in their way, they 
took it in. Then later, with the development of eyespots and pigment- 
sensitive chemicals concentrated in certain cells, you get the differentia- 
tion between light and darkness. Then later still you get mobile animals 
and the evolution of complicated eyes and so forth. You see, what is 
happening is that biology is a conquest of dimensions and that if you 
view culture as the extension of biological evolution, it too is a conquest 
of a dimension. It is the conquest of a dimension of time where, through 
the invention of alphabets and coding systems and oral traditions, expe- 
rience is able to be coded. Now we seem to be coming into a place where 
we are coding space and time, but the evolution of the conquest of space 
through motion allows our whole mapping of the world. Culture is 
turning into a hyperdimensional entity fulfilling the biological program 
of life. Whatever it is, it is transforming itself through a series of dimen- 
sions, bootstrapping itself from one dimension to another. You'll notice 
that currently human culture is very two-dimensional or it's very flat. 
What is the highest building in the world, a thousand feet high? And 
generally most buildings are twenty feet high; but now we are propos- 
ing to build space colonies where the notion of how high the building is 
doesn't exist because the world is the building and the building is fifty 
or a hundred miles long. 

We can record essentially anything we want about any event and 
recall it later. There is a synthesis of all this, which leads to the discovery 
of the inner dimension, which may be thought of as a higher or lower di- 
mension. The human imagination is the dimension beyond space and 
time, or it precedes all dimensions. At some level it has pointlike charac- 
teristics; that's why all this talk about the hologram, because it has the 


pointlike characteristics of new consciousness. It has all-at-onceness. Its 
everywhere-at-the-same-timeness has fascinated commentators. 

Q: You talked about the collapse of the distinction of inner and 
outer space. Would you go into that more? 

TM: The distinction of inner and outer space is rooted in associa- 
tion of the Self with the body. I think as the Self moves out into the 
ocean of electronic consciousness and, as we explored, into the erotic di- 
mensions with the Other that I've indicated tonight, this identification 
between Self and body will become secondary, in the same way that the 
identification between king and Self has become rather secondary over 
the last five thousand years. We don't even have a king. We seem to 
manage without one. It's conceivable we could manage without a body 
as well. These are just ways that loyalty is transferred toward forms of 
cultural concrescence validated by local languages. 

Q: It seems that the talk is of humanity being on the threshold of 
a New Age, and that maybe contact with aliens will help us cross this 

TM: I definitely think that there is a process that has been long 
under way that has been gaining momentum since its very beginning. It 
is the process that formed the planet, that called life out of the ocean, 
that called higher animals out of the lower animals, that called humanity 
out of the primates, and that called history out of tribal, sacral, timeless 
existence. What it is leading toward is some kind of transcendental 
transformative flowing together of everything that is beyond our lan- 
guage system. It is the umbilicus of being; it is where it's all tied togeth- 
er, and, therefore, it's very hard to describe. I think that all of our science 
and religion and history are patterns thrown across a limited set of di- 
mensions by the hyperdimensional presence of a certain object at the 
end of history toward which we are moving and toward which we are 
being drawn. I think that most things about human beings are mysteri- 
ous and that what is happening to us is mysterious. The sudden explo- 
sive development of the neocortex is entirely out of context with what 
we know about the rates of evolution that occur in other species and 
previously went on in the primates. 

It's been very fashionable in the past fifty years to think that it's all 
very humdrum; yet every ideological system that has been granted the 
status of being the official view of reality has always proclaimed that it 
had everything nailed down but the last 5 percent. Their best people 
were working on that. But I think that we know practically nothing. 
Though I am not in most senses religious, I think that religious thinking 


about the transformation of the world is more on the right track than the 
notion that the laws of physics will always be what they are, the laws of 
biology will always be what they are, and we're all just going to go along 
and things are going to get worse and worse, or better and better, but 
that there are no surprises. I think that we do not see what's going on. 

One of the reasons I like to make this argument about the mush- 
room and the extraterrestrial is to show people how one can see things 
differently. If things can be seen that differently, how many ways can 
they be seen differently? Try to get people to stop waiting for the presi- 
dent to enlighten them. Stop waiting for history and the stream of histor- 
ical events to make itself clear to you. You have to take seriously the 
notion that understanding the universe is your responsibility, because 
the only understanding of the universe that will be useful to you is your 
own understanding. It doesn't do you any good to know that some- 
where in some computer there are equations that perfectly model or per- 
fectly don't model something that is going on. We have all tended to 
give ourselves away to official ideologies and to say, "Well I may not 
understand, but someone understands." The fact of the matter is that 
only your own understanding is any good to you. Because it's you that 
you're going to live with and it's you that you're going to die with. As 
the song says, the last dance you dance, you dance alone. 

New Maps of Hyperspace 

N JAMES JOYCE'S Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus tells us, "History is 
the nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." I would turn 
this around and say that history is what we are trying to escape 
from into dream. The dream is eschatological. The dream is zero 
time and outside of history. We wish to escape into the dream. 
Escape is a key thing charged against those who would experiment 
with plant hallucinogens. The people who make this charge hardly 
dare face the degree to which hallucinogens are escapist. Escape. 
Escape from the planet, from death, from habit, and from the problem, if 
possible, of the Unspeakable. 

If one leaves aside the last three hundred years of historical expe- 
rience as it unfolded in Europe and America, and examines the phe- 
nomenon of death and the doctrine of the soul in all its 
ramifications— Neoplatonic, Christian, dynastic-Egyptian, and so on, 
one finds repeatedly the idea that there is a light body, an entelechy that 
is somehow mixed up in the body during life and at death is involved in 
a crisis in which these two portions separate. One part loses its raison 
d'etre and falls into dissolution; metabolism stops. The other part goes 
we know not where. Perhaps nowhere if one believes it does not exist; 
but then one has the problem of trying to explain life. And, though sci- 
ence makes great claims and has done well at explaining simple atomic 
systems, the idea that science can make any statement about what life is 
or where it comes from is currently preposterous. 

Science has nothing to say about how one can decide to close 
one's hand into a fist, and yet it happens. This is utterly outside the 

A talk given at the invitation of Ruth and Arthur Young of the Berkeley Institute 



realm of scientific explanation because what we see in that phenomenon 
is mind as a first cause. It is an example of telekinesis: matter is caused by 
mind to move. So we need not fear the sneers of science in the matter of 
the fate or origin of the soul. My probe into this area has always been the 
psychedelic experience, but recently I have been investigating dreams, 
because dreams are a much more generalized form of experience of the 
hyperdimension in which life and mind seem to be embedded. 

Looking at what people with shamanic traditions say about 
dreams, one comes to the realization that for those people dream reality 
is experientially a parallel continuum. The shaman accesses this continu- 
um with hallucinogens as well as with other techniques, but most effec- 
tively with hallucinogens. Everyone else accesses it through dreams. 
Freud's idea about dreams was that they were what he called "day- 
residues," and that one could trace the content of the dream down to a 
distortion of something that happened during waking time. 

I suggest that it is much more useful to try to make a kind of geo- 
metric model of consciousness, to take seriously the idea of a parallel 
continuum, and to say that the mind and the body are embedded in the 
dream and the dream is a higher-order spatial dimension. In sleep, one 
is released into the real world, of which the world of waking is only the 
surface in a very literal geometric sense. There is a plenum— recent ex- 
periments in quantum physics tend to back this up — a holographic 
plenum of information. All information is everywhere. Information that 
is not here is nowhere. Information stands outside of historical time in a 
kind of eternity — an eternity that does not have a temporal existence, 
not even the kind of temporal existence about which one may say, "It al- 
ways existed." It does not have temporal duration of any sort. It is eter- 
nity. We are not primarily biological, with mind emerging as a kind of 
iridescence, a kind of epiphenomenon at the higher levels of organiza- 
tion of biology. We are hyperspatial objects of some sort that cast a shad- 
ow into matter. The shadow in matter is our physical organism. 

At death, the thing that casts the shadow withdraws, and 
metabolism ceases. Material form breaks down; it ceases to be a dissipa- 
tive structure in a very localized area, sustained against entropy by cy- 
cling material in, extracting energy, and expelling waste. But the form 
that ordered it is not affected. These declarative statements are made 
from the point of view of the shamanic tradition, which touches all high- 
er religions. Both the psychedelic dream state and the waking 
psychedelic state acquire great import because they reveal to life a task: 
to become familiar with this dimension that is causing being, in order to 
be familiar with it at the moment of passing from life. 

The metaphor of a vehicle — an after-death vehicle, an astral 
body — is used by several traditions. Shamanism and certain yogas, in- 


eluding Taoist yoga, claim very clearly that the purpose of life is to fa- 
miliarize oneself with this after-death body so that the act of dying will 
not create confusion in the psyche. One will recognize what is happen- 
ing. One will know what to do and one will make a clean break. Yet 
there does seem to be the possibility of a problem in dying. It is not the 
case that one is condemned to eternal life. One can muff it through igno- 

Apparently at the moment of death there is a kind of separation, 
like birth— the metaphor is trivial, but perfect. There is a possibility of 
damage or of incorrect activity. The English poet-mystic William Blake 
said that as one starts into the spiral there is the possibility of falling 
from the golden track into eternal death. Yet it is only a crisis of a mo- 
ment — a crisis of passage — and the whole purpose of shamanism and of 
life correctly lived is to strengthen the soul and to strengthen the ego's 
relationship to the soul so that this passage can be cleanly made. This is 
the traditional position. 

I want to include an abyss in this model — one less familiar to ra- 
tionalists, but familiar to us all one level deeper in the psyche as inheri- 
tors of the Judeo-Christian culture. That is the idea that the world will 
end, that there will be a final time, that there is not only the crisis of 
death of the individual but also the crisis of death in the history of the 

What this seems to be about is that from the time of the aware- 
ness of existence of the soul until the resolution of the apocalyptic poten- 
tial, there are roughly one hundred thousand years. In biological time, 
this is only a moment, yet it is ten times the entire span of history. In that 
period, everything hangs in the balance, because it is a mad rush from 
hominid to starflight. In the leap across those one hundred thousand 
years, energies are released, religions are shot off like sparks, philoso- 
phies evolve and die, science arises, magic arises, all of these concerns 
that control power with greater and lesser degrees of ethical constancy 
appear. Ever present is the possibility of aborting the species' transfor- 
mation into a hyperspatial entelechy. 

We are now, there can be no doubt, in the final historical seconds 
of that crisis — a crisis that involves the end of history, our departure 
from the planet, the triumph over death, and the release of the individu- 
al from the body. We are, in fact, closing distance with the most pro- 
found event a planetary ecology can encounter — the freeing of life from 
the dark chrysalis of matter. The old metaphor of psyche as the caterpil- 
lar transformed by metamorphosis is a specieswide analogy. We must 
undergo a metamorphosis in order to survive the momentum of the his- 
torical forces already in motion. 

Evolutionary biologists consider humans to be an unevolving 

thousand years, with the invention i 


culture, the biological evolution of humans ceased and evolution be- 
came an epigenetic, cultural phenomenon. Tools, languages, and 
philosophies began to evolve, but the human somatotype remained the 
same. Hence, physically, we are very much like people of a long time 
ago. But technology is the real skin of our species. Humanity, correctly 
seen in the context of the last five hundred years, is an extruder of tech- 
nological material. We take in matter that has a low degree of organiza- 
tion; we put it through mental filters, and we extrude jewelry, gospels, 
space shuttles. This is what we do. We are like coral animals embedded 
in a technological reef of extruded psychic objects. All our tool making 
implies our belief in an ultimate tool. That tool is the flying saucer, or the 
soul, exteriorized in three-dimensional space. The body can become an 
internalized holographic object embedded in a solid-state, hyperdimen- 
sional matrix that is eternal, so that we each wander through a true 

This is a kind of Islamic paradise in which one is free to experi- 
ence all the pleasures of the flesh provided one realizes that one is a 
holographic projection of a solid-state matrix that is microminiaturized, 
superconducting, and nowhere to be found: it is part of the plenum. All 
technological history is about producing prototypes of this situation 
with greater and greater closure toward the ideal, so that airplanes, au- 
tomobiles, space shuttles, space colonies, starships of the nuts-and-bolts, 
speed-of-light type are, as Mircea Eliade said, "self-transforming images 
of flight that speak volumes about man's aspiration to self-transcen- 

Our wish, our salvation, and our only hope is to end the historical 
crisis by becoming the alien, by ending alienation, by recognizing the 
alien as the Self, in fact — recognizing the alien as an Overmind that 
holds all the physical laws of the planet intact in the same way that one 
holds an idea intact in one's thoughts. The givens that are thought to be 
writ in adamantine are actually merely the moods of the Goddess, 
whose reflection we happen to be. The whole meaning of human history 
lies in recovering this piece of lost information so that man may be diri- 
gible or, to paraphrase James Joyce's Finnegans Wake on Moicane, the red 
light district of Dublin: "Here in Moicane we flop on the seamy side, but 
up ne'nt, prospector, you sprout all your worth and you woof your 
wings, so if you want to be Phoenixed, come and be parked." It is that 
simple, you see, but it takes courage to be parked when the Grim Reaper 
draws near. "A blessing in disguise," Joyce calls him. 

What psychedelics encourage, and where I hope attention will fo- " 
cus once hallucinogens are culturally integrated to the point where large 
groups of people can plan research programs without fear of persecu- 
tion, is the modeling of the after-death state. Psychedelics may do more 



show us that the modalities of appearance and understanding can be 
shifted so that we can know mind within the context of the One Mind. 
The One Mind contains all experiences of the Other. There is no dichoto- 
my between the Newtonian universe, deployed throughout light-years 
of three-dimensional space, and the interior mental universe. They are 

We perceive them as unresolvable dualisms because of the low 
quality of the code we customarily use. The language we use to discuss 
this problem has built-in dualisms. This is a problem of language. All 
codes have relative code qualities, except the Logos. The Logos is perfect 
and, therefore, partakes of no quality other than itself. I am here using 
the word Logos in the sense in which Philo Judaeus uses it — that of the 
Divine Reason that embraces the archetypal complex of Platonic ideas 
that serve as the models of creation. As long as one maps with some- 
thing other than the Logos, there will be problems of code quality. The 
dualism built into our language makes the death of the species and the 
death of the individual appear to be opposed things. 

Likewise, the scenarios that biology has created through examin- 
ing the physical universe versus the angel- and demon-haunted worlds 
that depth psychology is reporting is also a dichotomy. The psychedelic 
experience acts to resolve this dichotomy. All that is needed to go be- 
yond an academic understanding of the plant hallucinogens is the expe- 
rience of the tryptamine-induced ecstasy. The dimethyltryptamine 
(DMT) molecule has the unique property of releasing the structured ego 
into the Overself. Each person who has that experience undergoes a 
mini-apocalypse, a mini-entry and mapping into hyperspace. For society 
to focus in this direction, nothing is necessary except for this experience 
to become an object of general concern. 

This is not to suggest that everyone should experiment with 
mushrooms or other naturally occurring sources of psychoactive 
tryptamines. We should try to assimilate and integrate the psychedelic 
experience since it is a plane of experience that is directly accessible to 
each of us. The role that we play in relationship to it determines how we 
will present ourselves in that final, intimated transformation. In other 
words, in this notion there is a kind of teleological bias; there is a belief 
that there is a hyperobject called the Overmind, or God, that casts a 
shadow into time. History is our group experience of this shadow. As 
one draws closer and closer to the source of the shadow, the paradoxes 
intensify, the rate of change intensifies. What is happening is that the hy- 
perobject is beginning to ingress into three-dimensional space. 

One way of thinking of this is to suppose that the waking world 
and the world of the dream have begun to merge so that in a certain 
sense the school of UFO criticism that has said flying saucers are halluci- 



nations was correct in that the laws that operate in the dream, the laws 
that operate in hyperspace, can at times operate in three-dimensional 
space when the barrier between the two modes becomes weak. Then one 
gets these curious experiences, sometimes called psychotic breaks, that 
always have a tremendous impact on the experient because there seems 
to be an exterior component that could not possibly be subjective. At 
such times coincidences begin to build and build until one must finally 
admit that one does not know what is going on. Nevertheless, it is pre- 
posterous to claim that this is a psychological phenomenon, because 
there are accompanying changes in the external world. Jung called this 
"synchronicity" and made a psychological model of it, but it is really an 
alternative physics beginning to impinge on local reality. 

This alternative physics is a physics of light. Light is composed of 
photons, which have no antiparticle. This means that there is no dualism 
in the world of light. The conventions of relativity say that time slows 
down as one approaches the speed of light, but if one tries to imagine 
the point of view of a thing made of light, one must realize that what is 
never mentioned is that if one moves at the speed of light there is no 
time whatsoever. There is an experience of time zero. So if one imagines 
for a moment oneself to be made of light, or in possession of a vehicle 
that can move at the speed of light, one can traverse from any point in 
the universe to any other with a subjective experience of time zero. This 
means that one crosses to Alpha Centauri in time zero, but the amount 
of time that has passed in the relativistic universe is four and a half 
years. But if one moves very great distances, if one crosses two hundred 
and fifty thousand light-years to Andromeda, one would still have a 
subjective experience of time zero. 

The only experience of time that one can have is of a subjective 
time that is created by one's own mental processes, but in relationship to 
the Newtonian universe there is no time whatsoever. One exists in eter- 
nity, one has become eternal, the universe is aging at a staggering rate 
all around one in this situation, but that is perceived as a fact of the uni- 
verse — the way we perceive Newtonian physics as a fact of this uni- 
verse. One has transited into the eternal mode. One is then apart from 
the moving image; one exists in the completion of eternity. 

I believe that this is what technology pushes toward. There is no 
contradiction between ecological balance and space migration, between 
hypertechnology and radical ecology. These issues are red herrings; the 
real historical entity that is becoming imminent is the human soul. The 
monkey body has served to carry us to this moment of release, and it 
will always serve as a focus of self-image, but we are coming more and 
more to exist in a world made by the human imagination. This is what is 
meant by the return to the Father, the transcendence of physis, the rising 



out of the Gnostic universal prison of iron that traps the light: nothing 
less than the transformation of our species. 

Very shortly an acceleration of this phenomenon will take place 
in the form of space exploration and space colonies. The coral-reef-like 
animal called Man that has extruded technology over the surface of the 
earth will be freed from the constraints of anything but the imagination 
and the limitations of materials. It has been suggested that the earliest 
space colonies include efforts to duplicate the idyllic ecosystem of 
Hawaii as an ideal. These exercises in ecological understanding will 
prove we know what we are doing. However, as soon as this under- 
standing is under control we will be released into the realm of art. This 
is what we have always striven for. We will make our world — all of our 
worlds — and the world we came from will be maintained as a garden. 
What Eliade discussed as metaphors of self-transforming flight will be 
realized shortly in the technology of space colonization. 

The transition from earth to space will be a staggeringly tight ge- 
netic filter, a much tighter filter than any previous frontier has ever 
been, including the genetic and demographic filter represented by the 
colonization of the New World. It has been said that the vitality of the 
Americas is due to the fact that only the dreamers and the pioneers and 
the fanatics made the trip across. This will be even more true of the tran- 
sition to space. The technological conquest of space will set the stage; 
then, for the internalization of that metaphor, it will bring the conquest 
of inner space and the collapse of the state vectors associated with this 
technology deployed in Newtonian space. Then the human species will 
have become more than dirigible. 

A technology that would internalize the body and exteriorize the 
soul will develop parallel to the move into space. The Invisible Landscape, 
a book by my brother and myself, made an effort to short-circuit that 
chronology and, in a certain sense, to force the issue. It is the story, or 
rather it is the intellectual underpinnings of the story, of an expedition to 
the Amazon by my brother and myself and several other people in 1971. 
During that expedition, my brother formulated an idea that involved us- 
ing harmine and harmaline, compounds that occur in Banisteriopsis caapi, 
the woody vine that is the basis for ayahuasca. We undertook an effort to 
use harmine in conjunction with the human voice in what we called "the 
experiment at La Chorrera." It was an effort to use sound to charge the 
molecular structure of harmine molecules metabolizing in the body in 
such a way that they would bind preferentially and permanently with 
endogenous molecular structures. 

Our candidate at the time was neural DNA, though Frank Barr, a 
researcher into the properties of brain melanin, has made a convincir 
case that there is as great a likelihood that harmine acts by binding < 


melanin bodies. In either case, the pharmacology involves binding with 
a molecular site where information is stored, and this information is 
then broadcast in such a way that one begins to get a mental readout on 
the structure of the soul. Our experiment was an effort to use a kind of 
shamanic technology to bell the cat, if you will, to hang a superconduct- 
ing, telemetric device on the Overmind so that there would be a continu- 
ous readout of information from that dimension. The success or failure 
of this attempt may be judged for oneself. 

The first half of the book describes the theoretical underpinnings 
of the experiment. The second half describes the theory of the structure 
of time that derived from the bizarre mental states that followed the ex- 
periment. I do not claim that we succeeded, only that our theory of what 
happened is better than any theory proposed by critics. Whether we suc- 
ceeded or not, this style of thinking points the way. For example, when I 
speak of the technology of building a starship, I imagine it will be done 
with voltages far below the voltage of a common flashlight battery. This 
is, after all, where the most interesting phenomena go on in nature. 
Thought is that kind of phenomenon; metabolism is that kind of phe- 

A new science that places the psychedelic experience at the center 
of its program of investigation should move toward a practical realiza- 
tion of this goal — the goal of eliminating the barrier between the ego and 
the Overself so that the ego can perceive itself as an expression of the 
Overself. Then the anxiety of facing a tremendous biological crisis in the 
form of the ecocrises, and the crisis of limitation in physical space forced 
upon us by our planet-bound situation, can be obviated by cultivating the 
soul and by practicing a new shamanism using tryptamine-containing 

Psilocybin is the most commonly available and experientially ac- 
cessible of these compounds. Therefore my plea to scientists, administra- 
tors, and politicians who may read my words is this: look again at 
psilocybin, do not confuse it with the other psychedelics, and realize that 
it is a phenomenon unto itself with an enormous potential for transform- 
ing human beings — not simply transforming the people who take it, but 
transforming society in the way that an art movement, a mathematical 
understanding, or a scientific breakthrough transforms society. It holds 
the possibility of transforming the entire species simply by virtue of the 
information that comes through it. Psilocybin is a source of gnosis, and 
the voice of gnosis has been silenced in the Western mind for at least a 
thousand years. 

When the Franciscans and the Dominicans arrived in Mexico in 
the sixteenth century, they immediately set about stamping out the 
mushroom religion. The Indians called it teonanacall, "the flesh of the 


gods." The Catholic church had a monopoly on theophagia and was not 
pleased by this particular approach to what was going on. Now, four 
hundred years after that initial contact, 1 suggest that Eros, which re- 
treated from Europe with the rise of Christianity, retreated to the moun- 
tains of the Sierra Mazateca. Finally, pushed into seclusion there, it now 
reemerges in Western consciousness. 

Our institutions, our epistemologies are bankrupt and exhausted; 
we must start anew and hope that with the help of shamanically in- 
spired personalities, we can cultivate this ancient mystery once again. 
The Logos can be unleashed, and the voice that spoke to Plato and 
Parmenides and Heraclitus can speak again in the minds of modern peo- 
ple. When it does, the alienation will be ended because we will have be- 
come the alien. This is the promise that is held out; it may seem to some 
a nightmare vision, but all historical changes of immense magnitude 
have a charged emotional quality. They propel people into a completely 
new world. 

I believe that this work must be done using hallucinogens. 
Traditionally it has been thought that there were many paths to spiritual 
advancement. In this matter 1 must fall back on personal experience. I 
have not had good results with any other techniques. T spent time in 
India, practiced yoga, visited among the various rishis, roshis, geysheys, 
and gurus that Asia had to offer, and I believe they must be talking 
about something so pale and so far removed from closure with the full 
tryptamine ecstasy that I don't really know what to make of them and 
their wan hierophanies. 

Tantra claims to be another approach. Tantra means "the short- 
cut path," and certainly it might be on the right track. Sexuality, orgasm, 
these things do have tryptaminelike qualities to them, but the difference 
between psilocybin and all other hallucinogens is information— im- 
mense amounts of information. 

LSD seemed somehow to be largely related to the structure of the 
personality. Often it seemed to me the visions were merely geometric 
patterns unless synergized by another compound. The classic psychedel- 
ic experience that was written about by Aldous Huxley was two hundred 
micrograms of LSD and thirty milligrams of mescaline. That combination 
delivers a visionary experience rather than an experience of hallucina- 
tions. In my opinion the unique quality of psilocybin is that it reveals not 
colored lights and moving grids, but places— jungles, cities, machines, 
books, architectonic forms of incredible complexity. There is no possibili- 
ty that this could be construed as neurological noise of any sort. It is, in 
fact, the most highly ordered visual information that one can experience, 
much more highly ordered than the normal waking vision. 

This is why it's very hard with psychedelic compounds to bring 
information. These things are hard to English because it is like try- 



ing to make a three-dimensional rendering of a fourth-dimensional ob- 
ject. Only through the medium of sight can the true modality of this 
Logos be perceived. That is why it is so interesting that psilocybin and 
ayahuasca — the aboriginal tryptamine-containing brew — both produce a 
telepathic experience and a shared state of mind. The unfolding group 
hallucination is shared in complete silence. It's hard to prove this to a 
scientist, but if several people share such an experience, one person can 
describe it and then cease the monologue and another person may then 
take it up. Everyone is seeing the same thing! It is the quality of being 
complex visual information that makes the Logos a vision of a truth that 
cannot be told. 

The information thus imparted is not, however, merely restricted 
to the mode of seeing. The Logos is capable of going from a thing heard 
to a thing seen, without ever crossing through a discernible transition 
point. This seems a logical impossibility; yet when one actually has the 
experience, one sees — aha! — it is as though thought that is heard does 
become something seen. The thought that is heard becomes more and 
more intense until, finally, its intensity is such that, with no transition, 
one is now beholding it in three-dimensional, visual space. One com- 
mands it. This is very typical of psilocybin. 

Naturally, whenever a compound is introduced into the body, 
one must exercise caution and be well informed with regard to possible 
side effects. Professional psychedelic investigators are aware of these 
factors and freely acknowledge that the obligation to be well informed is 
of primary importance. 

Speaking for myself, let me say that I am not an abuser. It takes 
me a long time to assimilate each visionary experience. I have never lost 
my respect for these dimensions. Dread is one of the emotions that I feel 
as I approach the experience. Psychedelic work is like sailing out onto a 
dark ocean in a little skiff. One may view the moon rising serenely over 
the calm black water, or something the size of a freight train may roar 
right through the scene and leave one clinging to an oar. 

The dialogue with the Other is what makes repetition of these ex- 
periences seem worthwhile. The mushroom speaks to you when you 
speak to it. In the introduction to the book that my brother and I wrote 
(under pseudonyms) called Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide, 
there is a mushroom monologue that begins: "I am old, fifty times older 
than thought in your species, and I came from the stars." That's verba- 
tim. I was writing it furiously. Sometimes it's very human. My approach 
to it is Hasidic. I rave at it; it raves at me. We argue about what it is go- 
ing to cough up and what it isn't. I say, "Well, look, I'm the propagator, 
you can't hold back on me," and it says, "But if I showed you the flying 
saucer for five minutes, you would figure out how it works," and I say, 
"Well, come through." It has many manifestations. Sometimes it's like 



Dorothy of Oz; sometimes it's like a very Talmudic sort of pawnbroker. I 
asked it once, "What are you doing on earth?" It said, "Listen, if you're a 
mushroom, you live cheap; besides, I'm telling you, this was a very nice 
neighborhood until the monkeys got out of control." 

"Monkeys out of control": that is the mushroom voice's view of 
history. To us, history is something very different. History is the shock 
wave of eschatology. In other words, we are living in a very unique mo- 
ment, ten or twenty thousand years long, where an immense transition 
is happening. The object at the end of and beyond history is the human 
species fused into eternal tantric union with the superconducting 
Overmind/UFO. It is that mystery that casts its shadow back through 
time. All religion, all philosophy, all wars, pogroms, and persecutions 
happen because people do not get the message right. There is both the 
forward-flowing casuistry of being, causal determinism, and the inter- 
ference pattern that is formed against that by the backward-flowing fact 
of this eschatological hyperobject throwing its shadow across the tem- 
poral landscape. We exist, yet there is a great deal of noise. This situa- 
tion called history is totally unique; it will last only for a moment, it 
began a moment ago. In that moment there is a tremendous burst of 
static as the monkey goes to godhood, as the final eschatological object 
mitigates and transforms the forward flow of entropic circumstance. 

Life is central to the career of organization in matter. I reject the 
idea that we have been shunted onto a siding called organic existence 
and that our actual place is in eternity. This mode of existence is an im- 
portant part of the cycle. It is a filter. There is the possibility of extinc- 
tion, the possibility of falling into physis forever, and so in that sense the 
metaphor of the fall is valid. There is a spiritual obligation, there is a 
task to be done. It is not, however, something as simple as following a 
set of somebody else's rules. The noetic enterprise is a primary obliga- 
■ tion toward being. Our salvation is linked to it. Not everyone has to read 
alchemical texts or study superconducting biomolecules to make the 
transition. Most people make it naively by thinking clearly about the 
present at hand, but we intellectuals are trapped in a world of too much 
information. Innocence is gone for us. We cannot expect to cross the 
rainbow bridge through a good act of contrition; that will not be suffi- 

We have to understand. Whitehead said, "Understanding is the 
apperception of pattern as such"; to fear death is to misunderstand life. 
Cognitive activity is the defining fact of humanness. Language, 
thought, analysis, art, dance, poetry, mythmaking: these are the things 
that point the way toward the realm of the eschaton. We humans may 
be released into a realm of pure self-engineering. The imagination is ev- 
erything. This was Blake's perception. This is where we come from. 



This is where we are going. And it is only to be approached through 
cognitive activity. 

Time is the notion that gives ideas such as these their power, for 
they imply a new conception of time. During the experiment at La 
Chorrera, the Logos demonstrated that time is not simply a homoge- 
neous medium where things occur, but a fluctuating density of probabil- 
ity. Though science can sometimes tell us what can happen and what 
cannot happen, we have no theory that explains why, out of everything 
that could happen, certain things undergo what Whitehead called "the 
formality of actually occurring." This was what the Logos sought to ex- 
plain, why out of all the myriad things that could happen, certain things 
undergo the formality of occurring. It is because there is a modular hier- 
archy of waves of temporal conditioning, or temporal density. A certain 
event, rated highly improbable, is more probable at some moments than 
at others. 

Taking that simple perception and being led by the Logos, I was 
able to construct a fractal model of time that can be programmed on a 
computer and that gives a map of the ingression of what I call "novel- 
ty" — the ingression of novelty into time. As a general rule, novelty is ob- 
viously increasing. It has been since the very beginning of the universe. 
Immediately following the Big Bang there was only the possibility of nu- 
clear interaction, and then, as temperatures fell below the bond strength 
of the nucleus, atomic systems could be formed. Still later, as tempera- 
tures fell further, molecular systems appeared. Then much later, life be- 
came possible; then very complex life forms evolved, thought became 
possible, culture was invented. The invention of printing and electronic 
information transfer occurred. 

What is happening to our world is ingression of novelty toward 
what Whitehead called "concrescence," a tightening gyre. Everything is 
flowing together. The "autopoetic lapis," the alchemical stone at the end 
of time, coalesces when everything flows together. When the laws of 
physics are obviated, the universe disappears, and what is left is the 
tightly bound plenum, the monad, able to express itself for itself, rather 
than only able to cast a shadow into physis as its reflection. I come very 
close here to classical millenarian and apocalyptic thought in my view of 
the rate at which change is accelerating. From the way the gyre is tight- 
ening, I predict that concrescence will occur soon — around 2012 a.d. It 
will be the entry of our species into hyperspace, but it will appear to be 
the end of physical laws accompanied by the release of the mind into the 

All these images — the starship, the space colony, the lapis — are 
precursory images. They follow naturally from the idea that history is 
the shock wave of eschatology. As one closes distance with the eschato- 


logical object, the reflections it is throwing off resemble more and more 
the thing itself. In the final moment the Unspeakable stands revealed. 
There are no more reflections of the Mystery. The Mystery in all its 
nakedness is seen, and nothing else exists. But what it is, decency can 
safely scarcely hint; nevertheless, it is the crowning joy of futurism to 
seek anticipation of it. 

Temporal Resonance 

nature is the Ur-myth of our civilization, yet in an im- 
portant area it is at variance with perceived experience. 
I refer to its description of the temporal dimension. 
Time for Newton was represented by a flat plane; it 
was pure duration, a domain necessary for the descrip- 
tion of events. Einstein added the possibility of slight 
and smooth curvature of the space-time continuum. 
Both points of view overlook a property of reality that my model 
building has taken very seriously: the phenomenon of the conservation 
of connectedness. We find this principle active at the very beginning of 
the universe, and connectedness continues to be conserved and con- 
centrated throughout the entire subsequent history of space /time. 

An interesting thing about this concatenation of connectedness is 
that each stage of its condensation took place more rapidly than the 
stages that preceded it. At its birth the universe was as a pure plasma; 
there were no atomic systems; there was so much energy within the sys- 
tem that electrons either did not yet exist or were unable to settle into 
stable orbits. Then, as the universe cooled, atomic systems began to 
form; stars condensed and through nuclear chemistry cooked up heavier 
elements, from which eventually developed a carbon-based chemistry. 
This opened the possibility of molecular chemistry — new realms of con- 
nectedness — a new proliferation of opportunity for novelty. This oppor- 
tunity led to life, to higher animals, to culture, and eventually and 

Appeared in Revision, vol. 10, no. 1, summer 1987. This is an attempt to make a 
succinct statement concerning my ideas about time and the timewave. 



comparatively recently to culture and epigenetic coding systems such as 
language and, even more recently, writing. The legacy of the conserva- 
tion of connectedness is the metaconnected chaostrophy of twentieth- 
century planetary culture. My model building has sought to unify all of 
these diverse phenomena and to treat them as manifestations of a single 
set of laws: laws that describe the ingression of novelty into time and its 
conservation and concentration in ordinary space/time and ordinary 
immediate experience. 

This idea differs from orthodox cosmology in that orthodox 
physics is very concerned with the very early history of the universe, 
which is imagined as a succession of very brief epochs each with its own 
special boundary constraints and species of physics, declensions from a 
singularity that precedes any physics. My notion reverses this procedure 
and places the compressed epochs of ultraconnectedness leading to sin- 
gularity at the end of the cosmological event, precisely where the stan- 
dard model has the universe running down into an entropic heat-death. 
The standard model treats biology as so epiphenomenal as to be unwor- 
thy of even being mentioned. 

In seeking the basis for a new model of time outside the "pure- 
duration" model of Western science, I naturally examined Eastern ap- 
proaches that seem more in tune with subjective intuitions and 
immediate felt experience. The experience we have of time is much 
more closely related to the description that we inherit from a tradition 
such as Taoism than it is to science. Indeed, the Tao Te Ching opens with 
the observation that "The Way that can be told of is not an unvarying 

The idea that time is experienced as a series of identifiable ele- 
ments in flux is highly developed in the / Ching. In fact, the temporal 
modeling of the J Ching offers the only well-developed alternative to the 
"flat-duration" point of view. The / Ching views time as a finite number 
of distinct and irreducible elements, in the same way that the chemical 
elements compose the world of matter. For the Taoist sages of pre-Han 
China, time was composed of sixty-four irreducible elements. It is upon 
relations among these sixty-four elements that I have sought to erect a 
new model of time that incorporates the idea of the conservation of nov- 
elty and recognizes time as a process of becoming. 

The earliest arrangement of the hexagrams of the I Ching is the 
King Wen sequence. It was this sequence that I chose to study as a possi- 
ble basis for a new model of the relationship of time to the ingression 
and conservation of novelty. In studying the kinds of order in the King 
Wen sequence of the I Ching, I made a number of remarkable discover- 
ies. It is well known that hexagrams in the King Wen sequence occur in 
pairs. The second member of each pair is obtained by inverting the first. 


In any sequence of the sixty-four hexagrams there are eight hexagrams 
that remain unchanged when inverted. In the King Wen sequence these 
eight hexagrams are paired with hexagrams in which each line of the 
first hexagram has become its opposite (yang changed to yin and vice 

The question remains of what rule or principle governs the ar- 
rangement of the thirty-two pairs of hexagrams comprising the King 
Wen sequence. My intuition was to look at the first order of difference — 
that is, how many lines change as one moves through the King Wen se- 
quence from one hexagram to the next. The first order of difference will 
always be an integer between one and six. When the first order of differ- 
ence within pairs is examined it is always found to be an even number. 
Thus, all instances of first order of difference that are odd occur at tran- 
sitions from one pair of hexagrams to the next pair. When the complete 
set of first order of difference integers generated by the King Wen se- 
quence is examined, the integers are found to fall into a perfect ratio of 
three to one, three even integers to each odd integer. The ratio of 3:1 is 
not a formal property of the complete sequence but was a carefully con- 
structed artifact achieved by arranging hexagram transitions between 
pairs to generate fourteen instances of three and two instances of one. 
Fives were deliberately excluded. The fourteen threes and two ones con- 
stitute sixteen instances of an odd integer occurring out of a possible 
sixty-four. This is a 3:1 ratio exactly. 

In addition, when the first order of difference of the King Wen se- 
quence is graphed, it appears random or unpredictable. However when 
an image of the graph is rotated 180 degrees within the plane and super- 
imposed upon itself, it is found to achieve closure at four adjacent 

While this closure might logically be expected anywhere in the 
sequence, it in fact occurs at the conventional beginning and end of the 
sequence. While an arrangement with closure might have placed any 
two hexagrams opposite each other, what we in fact find is that the hex- 
agrams opposite each other are such that the numbers of their positions 
in the King Wen sequence when summed is always equal to sixty-four. 

Over twenty-seven thousand hexagram sequences were random- 
ly generated by computer (all sequences having the property possessed 
by the King Wen sequence that every second hexagram is either the in- 
verse or the complement of its predecessor). Of these twenty-seven- 
thousand-plus sequences only four were found to have the three 
properties of a 3:1 ratio of even to odd transitions, no transitions of value 
five, and the type of closure described above. Such sequences were 
found to be very rare, occurring in a ratio of 1 in 6,750. 

For these reasons I was led to view the King Wen sequence as a 
rofoundly artificial arrangement 



Figure 1 

Graphing the first order of difference of 
the King Wen Sequence displays a sin- 
gularity: the first and last three positions 
have similar values. Thus closure occurs 
at both ends of the graph when it is ro- 
tated in two dimensions and placed next 

carefully at Figure 1. Review in your mind the steps from the King Wen 
sequence that led to it. Notice that it is a complete set of the sixty-four 
possible hexagrams, running both sequentially forward and backward. 
Since it is composed of sixty-four hexagrams of six lines each, it is com- 
posed of 6 x 64, or 384 lines, or yao. One might make an analogy and say 
that Figure 1 is to the King Wen sequence as a cube is to a square. Figure 
1 is composed of the same elements as the King Wen sequence, but it has 
more dimensions. 

It is my assumption that the oracle-building pre-Han Chinese 
viewed the forward- and backward-running double sequence of Figure 
IB as a single yao, or line, and that it is therefore open to the same treat- 


ment as lines are subject to in the / Ching, namely, multiplication by six 
and sixty-four. Since a hexagram has six lines, I visualized six double se- 
quences in a linear order. But a hexagram is more than lines; a hexagram 
also contains two trigrams. Thus, over the six double sequences I over- 
laid two double sequences, each three times larger than the six double 
sequences. A hexagram also has an identity as a whole; thus, over the six 
and the two double sequences a single, larger double sequence is pro- 
jected. The sets of double sequences of each level share a common point 
of origin and all return to a single endpoint. The resulting figure, too 
complex to show here, is to the original double sequence as a tesseract is 
to a cube, for again more dimensions have been added. This figure itself 
can then be imagined as a single hexagram, but one of a set of sixty-four. 

The closure at the beginning and end of this figure suggested that 
it might be useful to model process. Its 384 subunits imply a calendar. 
Can it be coincidence that the length of a lunar month, 29.53 days, times 
13 is 383.89? I believe that what we have here is a 384-day lunar calendar 
with resonances to other naked-eye astronomical phenomena known to 
be of interest to the ancient Chinese. 

liRure 2 

Permulations of I Ching Hexagrams 




Astronomical unit 

64 days (number of hex- 
agrams in the / China) 

» 6 (number of yao 
in a hexagram) 

384 days 

13 lunations 

384 days 

x 64 (number of hexa- 
grams in a sequence) 

67 solar years 
104.25 day's 

6 minor sunspot cycles 
11.2 years 

67 solar years 
104.25 days 

x 64 (number of hexa- 
grams in a sequence) 

4306 ♦ solar years 

2 Zodaieal Ages 
1 per Ingram each 
2200 years approx. 

4306 + solar years 

x 6 (number of yao 
in a hexagram) 

25.836 solar years 

1 complete precession 
of the equinoxes 

Using standard techniques, the modular hierarchy I constructed 
out of Figure 1 by the method described above can be mathematically 
collapsed into a self-similar or fractal curve that can be used to map the 
unfolding of temporal variables and their resonances on all levels of du- 

In order to demonstrate this assertion it was necessary to write 
computer software that would allow easy manipulation of the fractal 
timewave and the quick comparison of various locations within it. This 
was done with the very skillful help of my colleague Peter Meyer, who 
is responsible for the computer implementation of my ideas. 

Let us look at a screen, generated by computer, that shows a peri- 
od of time familiar to most of us, the late fifteenth and early sixteenth 



Figure 3» 

135 years, from 1425 AD lo 1560 AD 

century — a time distinguished by the invention of printing and the dis- 
covery of the New World. 

It is screens such as this that are the primary experimental tools 
and experimental output of these ideas concerning the fractal structure 
of time. Here it is unnecessary to discuss the tools and options available 
within the software, but let us examine this small portion of the time- 
wave itself. The wave is shown by the wandering line. Clearly this line 
represents the ebb and flow of some process. But what process? My con- 
tention is that novelty is what is being portrayed. As the line moves to- 
ward the bottom of the figure, novelty is increasing; upward movement 
toward the top of the figure indicates a decrease of novelty. Novelty, 
then, is put forward as a primary term necessary to a description of any 
temporal system much in the way that spin, velocity, and angular mo- 
mentum are primary terms necessary to the description of any physical 
system. Synonyms for "novelty" are "degree of connectedness" or "com- 
plexity." Note that these are not terms that make a moral judgment. 
Novelty is not "good" while entropy is "bad." Novelty is simply a situa- 
tion of greater connectedness and complex organization, while entropy 
is the opposite of these qualities: it is less organized, less integrated, less 

I have deliberately chosen to use the word "novelty" for this con- 
cept in order to anchor these ideas in the metaphysics of Alfred North 

*The values on the left of each graph (figures 3—8) are numerical quantifications of novelty. 
The maximum novel situation has a value of zero; hence, values tend toward zero as the 
end date is approached. In these graphs, the end date is assumed to be December 21, 2012 




Whitehead as presented in his Process and Reality. Whitehead has this 
to say: 

Creativity is the principle of novelty. Creativity introduces novelty into 
the content of the many, which are the universe disjunctively. The cre- 
ative advance is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to 
each novel situation which it originates. The ultimate metaphysical prin- 
ciple is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel en- 
tity other than the entities given in disjunction. The novel entity is at 
once the togetherness of the "many" which it finds and also it is one 
among the disjunctive "many" which it leaves; it is a novel entity, dis- 
junctively among the many entities which it synthesizes. The many be- 
come one, and are increased by one. In their natures, entities are 
disjunctively "many" in process of passage into conjunctive unity. Thus 
the "production of novel togetherness" is the ultimate notion embodied 
in the term concrescence. These ultimate notions of "production of novel- 
ty" and "concrete togetherness" are inexplicable either in terms of higher 
universals or in terms of the components participating in the concres- 
cence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. 
The sole appeal is to intuition. (1929, p. 26) 

This notion of the ebb and flow of an invisible quality that inte- 
grates and disintegrates entities into the world is well established in 
Eastern thought as the idea of the Tao. What is unusual in this approach, 
if not unique, is the effort to give a formal mathematical description of 
the ebb and flow of this quality. I might have called it Tao, but I chose 
instead to call it novelty to stress the fact that it is process growing to- 
ward concrescence. 

Within the timewave a variety of "resonance points" are recog- 
nized. Resonance points can be thought of as areas of the wave that are 
graphically the same as the wave at some other point within the wave, 
yet differ from it through having different quantified values. For exam- 
ple, if we choose an end date or zero date of December 21, 2012 A.D., 
then we find that the time we are living through is in resonance with late 
Roman times and the beginning of the Dark Ages in Europe. 

Implicit in this theory of time is the notion that duration is like a 
tone in that one must assign a moment at which the damped oscillation 
is finally quenched and ceases. I chose the date December 21, 2012 a.d., 
as this point because with that assumption the wave seemed to be in the 
"best fit" configuration with regard to the recorded facts of the ebb and 
flow of historical advance into connectedness. Later I learned to my 
amazement that this same date, December 21, 2012, was the date as- 
signed as the end of their calendrical cycle by the classic Maya, surely 



Figure 4 

4.2 years, from October 1986 (o December 1990 

one of the world's most time-obsessed cultures. However, the software 
that supports the timewave can accept any zero date and scale the time- 
wave accordingly. 

To see why I believe December 21, 2012 A.D., is a good candidate 
for the zero time, look at the wave signature for two rather long dura- 
tions of time. Pay special attention to the congruence of the episodes of 
novelty during each duration and the way in which they are shown to 
be in very convincing resonance when December 21, 2012 a.d., is the 
common zero point. 

Naturally, one cannot look at such wave signatures without won- 
dering what the significance of the zero point is. My interpretation of the 



40,000 BC -I -'towering o( Neanderthals 

33,000 BC— End of Moustcrian fcra; 

bone'antler lechnolocs begins 

52,000 BC-Begin Homo sapienx dominance; 
possible language emergence 

25,000 RC — Autignacian flasseiing. Venus 
figurines, first music 

14,000 BC— Magdelenian Resolution; ariistu 

I § i $ 1 1 1 • # f § 1 i <g 1 1 « 

9 I £ 8 R 5 ?5 K S S S 2 S S S * 

figure 7 

539 sears, from 1321 AIJ la I MO AO 

I34K AD— Black Death ravages Kurope 
445 AD— Priming invented 

1500 AD— Italian Renaissance: Ness World 

1760 AD— Luronean Enlightenment 

§ § I |,1 

Figure 8 

134 sears, from 



1900 AD— Twentieth Century begins 

1933 AD — Hitler becomes German C hancellor 

1969 AD— Landing on Moon 

I9KR AD— End of Reagan Era 



zero point is that it is the point at which the ingression into novelty and 
the degree of interconnectedness of the separate elements that comprise 
the concrescence will be such that the ontological nature of time itself 
will be transformed. History will end, and the transcendental object that 
has been drawing being into ever deeper reflections of itself since the 
first moments of the existence of the universe will finally be completely 
concrescent in the three-dimensional space-time continuum. Then the 
moving image of time will have discovered itself to be Eternity* 

* The reader who has found that this necessarily brief exposition of these ideas has whetted 
his or her appetite to know more should consult the book The Invisible Landscape, by 
Terence and Dennis McKenna. Readers interested in obtaining the software that allows ex- 
ploration of the theory of time presented here should write for more information to 
Dolphin Software, 48 Shattuck Square #147, Berkeley. CA 94704. 

Among Ayahuasqueros 

NFORMATION flows through the multiple continuum of being, 
seeking equilibrium yet paradoxically carrying images of ways its 
flow toward entropy is locally reversed by a being or society or 
phenomenon. These images become concepts and discoveries. We 
are immersed in a holographic ocean of places and ideas. This 
ocean of images and the intricacy of their connections is infinite; 
we understand it to whatever depth we are able. This is perhaps 
why great genius proceeds by apparent leaps. The revolutionary 
idea that inspires the genius comes upon one complete and entire by it- 
self from the ocean of speculative mind. We seek the intuitive leap that 
reveals the very mechanism of that other dimension. The need for such 
a leap for humanity will grow as we exhaust complexity in all realms 
save the microphysical and the psychological. At present my method is 
immersion in the images and self-examination of the phenomena — that 
is, taking psilocybin mushrooms and pondering just what this may all 
mean, with confidence that time will at least deepen understanding if 
not answer all questions. 

My provisional acceptance of this view of the dimension "seen" 
in hallucinogenic trance approximates the worldwide "primitive" view 
that we are somehow comingled with a "spirit world." 

Is the access to another dimension that the psilocybin mushroom 
makes available something so uniquely peculiar to it that it is reasonable 
to associate the phenomenon specifically with a single species of mush- 
room? Or is this strange world a thing unique to the chemical psilocy- 

From Gateway to Inner Space, edited by Christian Ratsch (New York: Prism 
Books, 1989). This piece is a reflective diary of the search for ayahuasca that my 
partner Kat Harrison McKenna and I undertook in the Amazon in 1976. 



bin, wherever it occurs in nature? Albert Hofmann has written in LSD: 
My Problem Child that when he presented tablets of psilocybin to the 
mushroom shaman of Huatla, Maria Sabina, the old curandera avowed, 
"The spirit of the mushroom is in the little pill" (1983, p.142). 

In my confrontations with the personified Other that is resident 
in the mushroom, part of its message was its species-specific uniqueness 
and its desire for a symbiotic relationship with humans. At other times it 
presented itself not so much as a personage but as a giant network that 
many sorts of beings in different parts of the universe were using for 
their own purposes. I felt like a two-year-old child who struggles with 
the question, "Are there little people in the radio?" Perhaps the psilocy- 
bin-revealed dimension is a kind of network of information and images, 
or something even more substantial. 

To answer such questions it seemed to me that it would be neces- 
sary to explore another plant hallucinogen, taxonomically unrelated to 
the psilocybin-containing fungi, yet chemically related to psilocybin at 
the level of molecular structure. The drug that I had in mind and that 
perfectly fits these criteria is yage, or ayahuasca. This is a brew whose 
chief component is a huge jungle liana or vine, a woody creeper that at- 
tains to gigantic size in the Amazon Basin of the New World. The brews 
of the Banisteriopsis lianas have been known to science longer than have 
the mushroom cults of Mexico, but they are no less mysterious for that, 
even in today's overexplored world. 

In 1851 the British botanist and explorer Richard Spruce, comrade 
of Alfred Russel Wallace, penetrated the upper Rio Negro Basin, heart- 
land of Amazonas. He found the Tokanoan Indians of the Rio Vaupes 
using a strange drug to cause trances and prophetic divination. The 
drug was called caapi, and colorful and terrifying hallucinations were 
said to characterize its effects. Spruce made careful collections and later 
wrote: "I saw, not without surprise, that it belonged to the order 
Malpighiaceae and the genus Banisteria, of which I made it out to be an 
undescribed species and therefore called it Banisteria caapi" (Schultes, 
1968, p. 318). 

Fantastic accounts have characterized the Banisteriopsis drug since 
its discovery. The first description of the mysterious drug's effects was 
reported in 1858 when the explorer Villavincencio took it among the 
tribes of the upper Rio Napo in Amazonian Ecuador. This area is fre- 
quently implicated in reports of admixture plants, which are other 
plants added to the basic Banisteriopsis brew to strengthen the hallucina- 

Chemists who made the early attempts to isolate the alkaloids in 
B. caapi gave their compound the romantic name telepathine, reflecting 
the deep forest reputation of yage as a genuinely telepathic drug. This is 
an idea most recently given impetus by F. Bruce Lamb in his Wizard of 



the Upper Amazon, in which Lamb's informant details collective trance 
sessions where all participants shared the same vision. So yage is not 
without a gnosis of its own. Its has a reputation as a curing panacea and 
a powerful hallucinogen, bringing visions of strange cities, jungle beasts, 
and shamanic voyages to the heart of the Milky Way. 

sion to seek ayahuasca and to compare its experiential dimension to that 
of psilocybin when he wrote, "We stand merely on the threshold of our 
investigations into the botany, ethnology, history, pharmacology, chem- 
istry and therapeutics of that complex of intoxicants known as ayahuasca, 
caapi, or yage" (Schultes, 1968, p.12). 

Our expedition to Peru would consist of just three persons: my- 
self; Kat, who was our photographer, linguist, and botanical artist; and 
Richard, an old friend and a medical historian with a special interest in 
folk medicine and shamanistic curing. Neither Kat nor Richard had been 
into equatorial jungle before, but we prepared as carefully as possible 
and eagerly awaited the day when we would be whisked south to what 
we hoped would be warm jungles and high adventure. 

Reality at last outran apprehension — on the morning of March 6, 
1976, we arrived in Lima. As we flew south from Los Angeles that night, 
Comet West was impressively visible from 29,000 feet up. I took it as a 
good omen for our trip. Our arrival was typically rough — we were 
forced to linger several days in order to get our shotgun properly regis- 
tered, a necessary ordeal since going unarmed into the forest only in- 
vites difficulties. 

In a matter of days after arriving in Iquitos we found ourselves at 
the mouth of the Rio Napo, Loreto, Peru. Events moved very quickly. 
We unexpectedly encountered Lord Dark, nicknamed for his piercing 
stare. An old acquaintance of mine from Colombia, he was now a river 
pilot with his own boat. We accepted his offer of passage up the Napo. 
We, he and his female companion, and three young Germans traveled 
for three days before we came to the mouth of the Napo, with hopes of 
reaching Atun Cocha, a Yaqua village on an oxbow lake, later that day. 

Our situation was an abyss of ambiguity. The strangeness of sim- 
ply being in the Amazon in combination with the "chance" encounter 
with Lord Dark had made for a literary denseness of possibilities. I ac- 
cepted the situation because hourly we moved farther up the Napo, 
deeper into ayahuasca country, and nearer to our own goals for the voy- 
age. But I hoped we would be able to pleasantly part from this odd boat- 
man, the same who accompanied me and my other companions nearly 
to La Chorrera on that previous trip into the jungle. Finally we parted 
company with our unkempt Charon. Fortunately we managed to part on 
strained good terms, so involved was he in a financial squabble with his 



German passengers. The boat returned down the Napo, leaving us for 
the first time alone and without immediate onward transportation. We 
were at a small village some six hours downriver from Masan called 
Fancho Playa. There we dried our clothes and recovered from the ordeal 
of five days of cramped boat travel. The villagers had shown us a house 
with a sound roof and an attached cooking area, and there we were 
quite comfortable as we adapted and familiarized ourselves with the en- 
virons. I was disappointed in the degree of acculturation among the peo- 
ple living along the river. Though it is not a route of trade, traditional 
life-styles have either faded or moved deeper into the jungle. 

The Amazon is full of reverses and surprises. Our stay in Fancho 
Playa was difficult. We were plagued by mosquitoes, chiggers, and bit- 
ing black flies. Days of abuse by these pests brought us to long, fevered 
nights passed as in a waking dream. In spite of the difficulties, which 
were trials indeed and were to force us to new plans, we did learn that 
brujos with the ability to kill and cure and with knowledge of ayahuasca 
are common in that area. So well known are they that our informant was 
a child of six whom we met while walking in the forest with one of the 
men of the village, searching out cumala trees. Cumala is a generic term 
that includes the Virola species and related genera. We were too uncer- 
tain of how things stood to ask after ayahuasca. 

Our difficulties with insects and dysentery forced us to reassess 
our first venture into the Rio Napo. There were many things we needed 
but did not have. Even though we had located a veritable nest of self- 
alleged ayahuasqueros, we could not do any work unless we equipped 
ourselves against the insects that accompanied the unseasonal persis- 
tence of the rains. Accordingly, we made plans to leave Fancho Playa 
shortly before dawn the next day on a laundia bound for Iquitos. On the 
eve of our departure we learned of an old woman in the village who had 
a knowledge of ayahuasca. In addition, the people with whom we shared 
some aquardiente, the local distilled alcohol, turned out to be village char- 
acters with a reputation for using ayahuasca. We were assured by the peo- 
ple that every settlement on these rivers has its own ayahuasquero. 

After a rainy return to Iquitos and a number of days of wearing 
out our illness, we came to our lowest point. Our money was flowing 
away, and we had few hints as to where to contact anyone knowledge- 
able about ayahuasca. Finally, after several futile attempts, we were able 
to find someone who could point out to us the home of Manuel Cordova 
Rios, whose story is told in Wizard of the Upper Amazon. He was ninety- 
one but looked sixty, except for cataract-clouded eyes. He vehemently 
insisted that the ayahuasqueros of Iquitos are largely charlatans. Cordova 
Rios was quick to point out that it is not necessarily the deep forest 
Indian who is master of the ayahuasca knowledge — that it is simply a 



matter of finding someone who knows how to prepare it. He urged us to 
look into the Pucallpa area and gave us the name of a woman who had 
learned her art from him many years ago, Juana Gonzales Orbi, a leper 
whose affliction was arrested using jungle remedies, but not before she 
lost much of her hands and feet. Sr. Rios assured us that she loved to 
prepare ayahuasca for people and had helped gringos in the past. Since al] 
other trails had grown cold, our meeting with Sr. Rios gave our quest a 
new direction. We decided to fly to Pucallpa, hoping to find this woman 
and to be found acceptable by her as observers. 

We anticipated that a shift several hundred miles southward 
would shed some optimism on our somewhat illness-wearied and 
expense-riddled search. It was difficult amid the strain and bustle of 
travel to keep in mind the strangeness of the object of our search and the 
vision mat would certainly be a part of our experience if we succeeded. 
Our meeting with Cordova Rios had seemed decisive, since he was the 
person who had described the telepathic collective trances that are a part 
of what we hoped to validate. 

We arrived in Pucallpa shortly after dark. Our first impression 
was of a typical frontier town, more rough and ready than Iquitos, too 
raw and jumbled to have much charm. It is a sprawl of brick, mortar, 
and corrugated metal roof. But for its size it could be any of many river 
hamlets in the Amazon. No oil companies were yet active out of 
Pucallpa, so the clash of money and tradition was less noticeable than in 
Iquitos. The streets were unpaved, and we awoke the next morning to a 
cold rain (out of season, we were assured) that had turned the town to a 
sea of red mud. Our first round of inquiries was completely fruitless — 
whatever Juana Gonzales's situation was, it was not overly publicized. It 
seemed that so far our trip had been a series of wrong moves and wast- 
ed efforts. Even in Pucallpa we had no certitude that we would find 
what we were looking for. Yet we had decided to continue until all our 
money was spent if we could generate no other conclusion. We contin- 
ued to hope to find an ayahuasquero and learn whatever we could of the 

After two days of fruitless searching, our morale had drifted even 
lower. It had remained impossible to locate Juana Gonzales, but in our 
search for her we inquired about other ayahuasqueros who might know of 
her. We were led to the Bar Huallaga, a country store at kilometer 12 on 
the highway to Lima, where we met Don Fidel Mosombite, a quiet but 
intense man whose home and chacra, a field of slash-and-burn cleared 
for growing food, were located nearby. As we climbed off the bus in the 
midday sun we were swept into the scene in progress on the dirt porch 
of the store. An older man was drunk and stood raving; first he greeted 
us, then sang the praises of our man, his amigo, a maestro, who sat silent- 



ly nearby. "We are one blood. Today la gente — un sangre. EI maestro 
brought me to my life. In Chiclayo, my home, ayahuasca brought no vi- 
sions, but with this man . . ." And so on, very hard for me to follow. 

The man we had come to see said nothing, but occasionally nod- 
ded agreement. His air of calm intelligence and disdain for the drinking 
going on was singular. He seemed near forty, powerfully built, his eyes 
so dark they appeared all pupil. My overall impression was of intelli- 
gence and self-control, nothing theatrical, nothing studied. The drunk 
older man told of ayahuasca journeys that Sr. Mosombite had made with 
Argentine doctors and other foreigners. The difference of the brews 
throughout Peru was mentioned, and I asked about the necessity of 
chacruna as part of the brew to produce visions. Sr. Mosombite con- 
firmed this. Chacruna is the local term for a Psychotria species, Psychotria 
viridis, whose DMT potentiates intense hallucination in combination 
with harmine and other beta-carbolines. 

Talk led to more talk, and gradually the impression grew that 
here was someone whose ambiente seemed correct for the mystery that 
he claimed to understand. I mused that this person, living peripherally 
to teeming Pucallpa and seeming an intellectual and respected profes- 
sional to his peers, fit the typical profile of a shaman. We departed the 
small roadside bar and went alone with the ayahuasquero to the nearby 
house of the herb-dealing old woman at whose stall in a Pucallpa mar- 
ket we were first advised to seek Sr. Mosombite. As we walked, he 
openly discussed the plants we passed. "Specialities of the old woman, 
who grows them all near her house." Directly adjoining the house was a 
shed of bare-board construction, a place, we were told, where ayahuasca 
was taken every Saturday night. The room was not different from that of 
a small jungle church or school— it was in fact both. We talked at length 
with the old woman of the house and with the ayahuasquero. We spent 
the night and slept in an auditory environment of farm sounds, sounds 
of the nearby jungle, and the occasional passing of trucks on the high- 
way. At the invitation of Sr. Mosombite we decided to return to take his 
ayahuasca with the group. The stress on visions led me to hope that we 
were closing distance with the experiences we sought in coming to Peru. 
The feeling then, since we had recently had so many disappointments, 
was one of expectation tinged with the nervousness that attends any 
challenging hallucinogen. If all went well we would stay with this new 
circle of people and gather as much plant material and information as 
we could. That became our firm intention. 

Finally the night came when at the house of the herb woman and 
in the company of Don Fidel and another shaman, his nephew, we had 
our first ayahuasca experience. We arrived in the late afternoon and re- 
laxed and made small talk until eight o'clock, when it was thoroughly 



dark. Then the shaman smoked a tobacco pipe of unusual construction, 
blowing smoke into a brown glass quart bottle that contained the 
ayahuasca and whistling through his teeth. The bottle was passed 
around, and we were assured that we would be sick in half an hour. 
Beyond slight discomfort, none of us had any stomach difficulties. We 
were all praised for having bodies so clean that we could hold the 
ayahuasca. Don Fidel and the old man that had been with him at our first 
meeting both vomited, the older man near the half hour mark and Don 
Fidel many hours later. At thirty minutes I felt myself slipping into a 
lulling numbness. My senses were alert, and I felt at ease and comfort- 
able in the strange and unfamiliar surroundings. The singing began 
about ten minutes later, interwoven walls of sound by which the singer 
led and developed the hallucinations. As we were transported by the 
singing, sometimes Quechua, sometimes Spanish, sometimes monotonal 
chanting, hours passed. 

My mood shifted from one of apprehension of a reputedly pow- 
erful psychedelic unknown to me to disappointment that the dose was 
apparently insufficient to trigger the anticipated flood of visions. At a 
pause in the singing we discussed our roughly similar states of mind 
with the maestros. We discussed the difficulties of a first "flight," dif- 
ferences of diet, or chemical poisons that might be interfering with la 
purga. Don Fidel questioned us about our drug use. Did we know mari- 
juana? We described our devotion to cannabis and mushrooms and 
drew praise for our habit of taking only plant drugs. We again drank 
the ayahuasca. It was suggested that perhaps marijuana would help us 
concentrate on the ayahuasca even as the tobacco helped them to do so. 
We had previously been too uncertain of ourselves to smoke, but in a 
moment I hauled out our Oaxacan pollen and sent it around. Don Fidel 
abstained; his nephew Don Jose held his toke down and, eyes running 
tears, proclaimed it truly fuerte. We put the candle out and again the 
song-induced walls of nearly visible sound enwrapped us. Hours after 
the beginning of the trip, my mind, relaxed by the familiar taste of 
cannabis, flowed out into a hallucination-filled space. The synergistic 
effect of smoking cannabis is apparently necessary for deep rushes of 
visionary images on lower doses of ayahuasca, as it is with other hallu- 
cinogens. The singing showed the way through the billowing hypna- 
gogia. I roved and scanned like a swimming fish caught in a spiral 
dance in a sea of tryptamine images, the mundane and the unimagin- 
able crowding for my attention. 

One moment among many of that first ayahuasca night is amusing 
to relate. In the nearly absolute darkness of our meeting place the 
singing was occasionally punctuated by popping mouth noises, strange 
expulsions of air. At one point I heard a low puff of air and immediately 


felt a sharp tingling on my right hand. I looked down and had the visual 
and tactile sensation of a blue tingling circle of light on my hand. I 
reached for the center of the sensation, expecting a sliver or quill. The 
thought of curare came and went in my mind, triggering a mild alarm 
easy to talk myself out of. But the sensation remained and grew: a spin- 
ning disc of blue foil hanging incandescent in the dark, growing larger, 
then gradually fading. It was a vision, of course, but it is not impossible 
that the sensation was caused by something like a tsentsek, a psy- 
chophysical power carrier moved by the will, and perhaps by the breath, 
of the shaman. 

Don Fidel and his nephew are shamans who understand the veg- 
etable psychedelics as a means to explore and understand the mechanics 
of the mind. Don Fidel especially seemed without elitism or any wish to 
obscure what he knew. They both unhesitatingly answered our every 
question. "Where are the old wild ayahuasca plants in virgin forest?" "At 
kilometer 29 and 32" was their open reply. What about admixture plants 
besides chacruna? Don Jose recognized my description of Diploteris cabr- 
erana. He did not call it oco-yage but knew it as puca huasca, and said he 
would try to get some. He was concerned that our hallucinations were 
not clear and definite. "We must concentrate on Jesus Christ," he said. 
"Concentrate on the fecund white stone filled with light." He knew a 
woman in Yarina Cocha who had puca huasca, a plant we would later ex- 
plore in order to learn to cure. 

The songs continued for many hours, songs declaiming the 
shaman's perceptions that we, like them, were sound and healthy, good 
persons for ayahuasca. There were songs for absent persons with prob- 
lems; a song for a young woman present to have the dark effects of some 
dubious but unspecified act expunged; songs of marijuana, another cur- 
ing plant to explore; songs of oration, invocation, and prayer. There 
were even songs asking the Lord to move the hearts of patients to pay 
their bills; these latter on the part of Don Jose, the nephew. 

We paid 300 soles or six dollars for the songs of the medicos and 
for the ayahuasca itself. In Yarina Cocha, raw ayahuasca is 250 soles per 
kilo and chacruna is 150 soles per kilo. We were happy to divert our mon- 
ey from the overpriced accommodations of Pucallpa into the rural peo- 
ple's hands. They understood our sincerity and limitations. There was a 
sense of shared approach and of different kinds of understanding mutu- 
ally reinforcing each other. "The understanding that comes from under- 
standing" was a phrase that I heard in my mind many times that first 
ayahuasca night. It is a description of the gnosis that plant psychedelics 
bring; a standing within things yet somehow beyond them, an eidetic re- 
duction that transcends subject and object. The ayahuasca way of under- 
standing was opened before us. Though that night we only lightly 


brushed the power of ayahuasca, after I was able to relax I felt that, given 
sufficient opportunities, we would eventually be able to make our way 

The next day we would make collections of other medicinal 
plants, and on Saturday, two days later, we would photograph every 
stage in the preparation of a new batch of ayahuasca and again voyage 
with it that night. Eventually a number of possibilities would loom. We 
hoped to make a pilgrimage to an old wild grandfather plant in the for- 
est. An attempt would be made to collect and try various admixture 
plants. The shaman claimed to be familiar with the use of the mush- 
room, although he preferred ayahuasca. Is the use of the psilocybin 
mushroom in the Pucallpa region a traditional folkway? Is it something 
learned recently from travelers familiar with the Mexican Indian use of 
the mushrooms? How long has the mushroom been taken in Peru? Is it 
possible it antedates the introduction of Stroplmria in the New World? Is 
it possible that its use is pre-Conquest? If the latter, then it is the first 
time such an ancient folk use of psilocybin mushrooms has been sus- 
pected in South America, or anywhere outside of Mexico. These are fas- 
cinating questions, and the possibility exists of finding some concrete 
answers. Many experiences and much work lay ahead, but having found 
the path of ayahuasca and having been judged fit to follow it, we were 
filled with high anticipation of the things to be learned and seen in the 
weeks ahead. Our job was to refine our powers of observation so that we 
would make as much of the opportunity as possible. 

Pucallpa is far more a jungle outpost than is Iquitos. Iquitos had a 
large mestizo population, while Pucallpa is a city built by the indige- 
nous people as their population center. Such conditions explain the 
flourishing of jungle folkways in a modern rural and urban situation. 
Ayahuasca curing is deeply embedded in and respected by the mestizo 
culture. It flourishes among and is pursued experientially and intelli- 
gently by those who know and preserve the ancient New World ayahuasca 

It may be that the South American yage/ ayahuasca complex is the 
largest psychedelic cult in the world. From Panama to Bolivia, from the 
Pacific coast to deep into Brazil, these visions are regularly sought out, 
individual practitioners making their reputations on the quality of their 
brews, chants, and cures. Like all shamanic practices, the ayahuasca cult 
is the creation of highly individual personalities. For this reason, simple 
laboratory analysis of drug samples will not dispel the air of real mys- 
tery surrounding ayahuasca. 

Ayahuasca is as good as the person who makes it is meticulous 
and demanding. The culture of rural Peru faces a shattered past and a 
ulent future. The fate of the ayahuasca mystery hangs tremulously in 



the balance while at the collective level the culture gropes toward a deci- 
sion to repress or reinforce the institution of hallucinogenic shamanism. 

To truly understand ayahuasca would take years, for there are as 
many forms of ayahuasca as there are Banisteriopsis varieties plus admix- 
tures. Local variations in ingredients and procedure should be systemat- 
ically studied. It is an important task, reserved for one who wishes to 
give order to a particularly disordered set of ethnopharmacological is- 
sues. My own interest is the vision state and the contact dimension per 
se. I want to investigate these compounds as a means to those ends. For 
that, the tryptamine hallucinogens remain the most effective and im- 
pressive investigative tools that I am aware of. With them one can find 
oneself in the center of energies that lie present at hand but are normally 
unseen, pure image and imagination unconstrained by any limitations. 
The hallucinations are not limited to visions of a type or color or tone. It 
is as open a modality as, literally, it is possible to imagine. 

The quality that permeated associating with the shaman Don 
Fidel was, at its best, a sense of mutual colleagueship. He was reverent 
in the face of the lux natura that his mystery revealed, but his under- 
standing was that the operational basis of the experience was biochemi- 
cal, subject to manipulation and open to theory making and shared 
collective validation. The ayahuasqueros are true technicians of 
psychedelic sacrality. Their approach — awed self-experiment and accu- 
mulation of a corpus of techniques experienced as valid— is no different 
from our own. Any approach that excludes these qualities will be too re- 
moved from the subject matter to offer a useful description. This is why 
anthropologists often miss the point. We should admit that we know no 
more of the topology of the collective unconsciousness than any other 
culture. No one is more knowledgeable in these things than a sincere 
person of any background can choose to become. It is shamanic person- 
alities, grand exploring souls, who somehow rise above or find them- 
selves beyond any but a universal set of values; they explore the deep 
waters of our collective being. They show the way, and to be with them 
is to be near the cutting edge. Shamanism in Peru is like European alche- 
my in that it utilizes psychic involvement in matter, but European 
alchemy became entrapped in a fascination with metals and purified ele- 
ments. Psychedelic shamanism more happily centers its attention on liv- 
ing matter, specifically plants, where alkaloids and other biodynamic 
consntuents congenial to tne primate nervous system are encountered. 
Ayahuasca is such a plant, and its alchemy, jungle alchemy, is an im- 
mense panacea to those who use it regularly. 

Hoping to observe the cooking of a batch of ayahuasca, we ar- 
ranged to meet with Don Fidel early one morning at his home. Though 
we arrived an hour late, for unclear reasons he expressed amazement 


that we had made our way to his home so early. "Anyway," he told us, 
"it has not been possible to get chacruna, so there can be no cooking." He 
was not abrupt, and apparently that evening's ayahuasca session would 
still be held with previously prepared brew, which is supposedly good 
for six months — an ayahuasca vine being kept alive by being buried in 
wet sand. Don Fidel showed us a sprout-covered sandy stick that his 
child brought from nearby. We asked about puca huasca, which we as- 
sumed to be Diploteris cabrerana, and were unsettled when Don Fidel dis- 
missed it as "food for dogs." When questioned he would say only that it 
was "too bizarre" and "not fit for Christians." When we had mentioned 
it to Don Jose he only said that he knew a woman in Yarina who could 
get it. Could this woman have been the mysterious Juana Gonzales 
Orbi? When questioned, Don Jose agreed in essence with Don Fidel that 
puca huasca (D. cabrerana) is too strong to use for curing. He also called it 
comida del perro (food for dogs), but it was less clear whether this was an 
expression of contempt or an actual description of some folk belief about 
the plants. 

My attitude toward what we were and still are trying to find out is 
like that of a detective. We must simply work our way through each lead, 
each possibility, separating the wheat from the chaff. Does this rural 
oyahuasco-curing scene reflect the presence of practitioners who truly un- 
derstand, control, and voyage into the borderland world that classical 
shamanism insists exists and whose parameters we are trying to define? 
A possible and unexpected conclusion that I can imagine now emerging 
from our trip to Peru is that while we can discover and even to some de- 
gree penetrate rural systems of psychedelic healing, we shall find it very 
hard to find people who look beyond the curing power to ask what is its 
basis and what is the meaning of hallucinogen-induced visions generally. 
The ayahuasca takers observe other worlds in space and time in their vi- 
sions, but they feel a different sort of involvement in understanding what 
this may mean or in testing to validate what they believe. At the edge of 
things, where the really intense DMT-caused visions occur, it is hard for 
the shaman's personality not to be dissolved in a more primitive reaction 
of fear and unthinking awe. The curing shaman will not seek experiences 
in such titanic landscapes, and the researching shamanic explorer must 
step lightly, testing epistemological equipment at every step. Such a one 
is hard to find, since such a person will proceed by some theory of activi- 
ty, and theories, especially concerning such arcane matters, do not travel 
well from one language to another. 

I am left to conclude that we must remain our own guides into 
those still-elusive dimensions, more unexplored than we had previously 
imagined. This is what I have done for years, since each effort to find a 
preexisting tradition that made complete sense of the shamanic dimen- 



sion as I personally know it has been less than successful. It may be that 
possession of pure chemicals in combination with collected living plants 
and the collected available data of ethnography put one in a better posi- 
tion to gain an overall sense of the importance of psychedelic visions 
than can be gotten from any particular informant, limited necessarily by 
adaptation to a single approach. What I really wish to know is whether 
we are alone at the edge of these mysteries, or whether there is a tradi- 
tion of the hyperdimensions of gnosis. If the latter is true, what happens 
to one who gains admittance to its mysteries? 

A hot and muggy equatorial afternoon found us awaiting with 
anticipation our second opportunity to take ayahuasca. We had moved to 
the home of the old woman where our first session took place. With our 
dwindling funds we were only too happy to accept living space and es- 
cape the tremendously inflated hotel prices in Pucallpa. The hospitality 
of the people was limitless, but the heat and the biting insects, about 
which we could do nothing, remained to wear us down. 

The regular Saturday night ayahuasca session was canceled be- 
cause our friends were unable to obtain chacruna, the Psychotria admix- 
ture. This disappointed many people, some of whom had come from 
Lima by bus. Conversation in the wake of that disappointment brought 
out the opinion that chacruna grew and could be obtained at kilometer 
29 — the same area where Don Jose indicated that the very old unculti- 
vated Banisteriopsis caapi vines grow. We determined to make a trip 

We spent a day in search of the admixture plant. We took a bus to 
kilometer 34 and arranged to purchase a substantial amount the follow- 
ing Sunday. Then, hoping to find a small supply to tide us over until 
then, we walked six kilometers off the main road on the road to Nueva 
Requena to the home of Don Fidel's uncle Don Juan. Don Juan occupies 
the elder uncle position in relation to Don Fidel, even as Don Fidel occu- 
pies the same position relative to Don Jose. At Don Juan's we were 
shown and allowed to photograph several small chacruna plants. They 
had been grown from cuttings and did not appear to be doing well. 
Perhaps these plants were in too dry a location, for according to the two 
dons, chacruna grows best in wet, swampy lowland. They were slow 
growing and were short. Don Juan also posed proudly with a meter- 
long piece of ayahuasca, almost as tall as he was. It had been gathered in 
primary forest some distance from his home; the old, wild-growing 
plants are preferred. 

After we left Don Juan's and had stopped for a beer at the Bar 
Huallaga, Don Fidel held forth on many subjects: the sin of inducing 
abortions, the relations of some curanderos to God and of some to the 
devil. Don Fidel emphasized a kind of Manichaean view of good and 



evil in which the world is a mixture of things, some of which belong to 
God and some to the devil. Man has two bodies, one visible and associ- 
ated with the physical and one invisible and associated with mind and 
thought. This second body is not destroyed by death, and it is the part of 
the shaman that cures and sees. Strange how close to the worldview of 
the Corpus Hermeticum his ideas are. 

One morning, having slept well, we set off for Yarina, hoping to 
observe Don Jose making ayahuasca. We found him settled back with a 
couple of lady patients. Possibly they were smoking marijuana when we 
arrived, as there was some scrambling upon which Don Jose's monkey 
gazed restlessly. Ayahuasca was simmering in a shed not far away. 

Don Jose gave us some chacruna leaves that he had managed to 
get to give to Don Fidel, and thus it was that we saw mature chacruna fo- 
liage at last. Its rubiaceous nature was clear, and the berries were about 
three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter and waxy green, just as Schultes 
had described. We obtained voucher specimens. Don Jose pointed out a 
taxonomic feature that he considered unique to cltacruna: a double line of 
budlets or merestigmatic nodes that stud the underside of each mature 
leaf. Perhaps this has not been noticed before. 

Events were punctuated by discussion whenever we spent time 
with Don Fidel. This particular day he was full of cosmology and 
metaphor. We further discussed puca huasca, and I learned that not all vi- 
sions are human visions; some that are meaningless to human beings are 
visions meant for animals. Puca huasca carried the vision best under- 
stood by dogs. Though he may have been pulling our leg a bit with 
this, the traditional avoidance of Diploteris cabrerana is curious. 
Meanwhile, the chacruna market is booming— a kilo packet costs 250 
soles. Apparently chacruna grows well only in wet lowland, and those 
lucky enough to have a source sell it at a dear price to less fortunate 

It was on that same excursion to Yarina that we ran to ground the 
search for Juana Gonzales Orbi. We inquired after her in a part of Yarina 
that we were told on a previous visit was her home, but the trail was 
cold. The good woman had been away for four months and was not ex- 
pected soon. We spoke with her middle-aged brother and learned that 
she now practices out of Tingo Maria and travels between there and 
Lima. It appeared that Juana Gonzales Orbi was not to be encountered 
on this visit. 

On April 7 we had another try at Don Jose's ayahuasca. Again, 
while there was a buildup of psychedelic potential, there was no out- 
break of deep visions. Several people complained of the weak brew. This 
session ended any further dealings with Don Jose, for he was apparently 
not really able to prepare ayahuasca, even though he had the traditional 



recipes and materials. He represents the vitiated tradition. Financial suc- 
cess, or more properly the search for it, has caused him to forget the ba- 
sics. Ayahuasca is in large measure dependent for its strength on the even 
and smooth rhythm of preparation. Don Jose is slapdash, and hence his 
purga is el poco purga, as Don Fidel said. It is Don Fidel's expectation that 
when the ayahuasca is made properly, there is no difficulty in getting off. 
We were eager to try Don Juan's brew. We had tried just a sip on our 
visit to his house, and it certainly tasted stronger than any other we had 
been offered. 

During this rime we were definitely moving closer to Don Fidel 
and his uncle and away from the sobrino (nephew), Don Jose, who was 
younger, eager, and, as Don Fidel said, "ambitious." Don Jose eventual- 
ly went off to Lima on a reputation-building errand and so faded as nat- 
urally as did Juana Gonzales. Thus we were left with the older, poorer, 
more rural of the ayahuasqueros we had met. Both Don Fidel and Don 
Juan gave us a feeling of solidity and trustworthiness. We had really yet 
to get to know Don Juan, who on our first visit to his home showed us 
harvested ayahuasca and young chacruna bushes. With Don Fidel we had 
long, groping talks. He sees his immediate surroundings as transformed. 
He lives in "an earthly paradise," and the muddy trail winding past his 
thatched home is "the path that Christ walked on earth." He says he 
leads a clean life and can cure — it is his gift. His real interest is the invisi- 

who travel on ayahuasca. This is an idea that I relate to the modern no- 
tion of UFOs. 

A day was spent with Don Fidel at his house watching and pho- 
tographing how he prepares his ayahuasca. The chacruna is placed at the 
bottom of a two-gallon enameled metal pot and is covered by pieces of 
ayahuasca that have been crushed by being beaten with a hardwood club 
against a log. The crushed stems, some nearly two inches in diameter, 
are arranged in layers until the pot is filled; then the material is covered 
with water and boiled, none too gently, until the volume of water ap- 
pears to be cut in half. The plant material is then removed, and the re- 
maining liquid, perhaps one and a half quarts, is poured into a smaller 
pot to cool while the larger, now empty, enameled pot is refilled with a 
load of chacruna, ayahuasca, and water, exactly as before. This second 
load is boiled down just as the first was. The two liquid fractions are 
combined in the enamel pot, and the boiling down continues until about 
one liter of cafe au lait-colored liquid is obtained. Sometimes the 
ayahuasca is further refined to a paste. Don Fidel's brew is twice as dark 
as the rather weak beverage prepared by Don Jose. 

There came a day in April that began with the realization that 
Kat and I were ill with salmonella. Our hope was to hold our guts suffi- 


ciently together to be able to do justice to the ayahuasca that we had seen 
prepared the day before at Don Fidel's house. Since the brew was twice 
as dark as the other ayahuasca brews we had seen, I hoped that it would 
be twice as strong. We arranged to have two liters of ayahuasca prepared 
for us, it being our hope that analysis of this and of our sample of each 
brew we encountered would give us an idea, once back in the United 
States, of their nearness to the ethnopharmacological ideal. In spite of 
our two ambiguous experiences, I was hopeful that we would find a 
compelling psychedelic dimension in the next experience of ayahuasca. 

While Don Fidel was brewing, a man stopped by for some medi- 
cal consultation. When the subject changed to ayahuasca the visitor 
avowed that he had taken it and had "seen nothing." Since it is regarded 
as a health restorative as well as a hallucinogen, seeing visions seems to 
be the icing on the cake for many who occasionally take ayahuasca — 
while for us hallucinations are a sine qua non. 

The factors that had previously impeded our getting off were per- 
haps minor: the dose may have been insufficient or we may have been 
resisting the effects, unconsciously unwilling to allow ourselves the psy- 
chic vulnerability that would accompany getting wildly intoxicated with 
a room full of unfamiliar people. 1 leaned to the idea that the dose was 
insufficient, and later events proved that true. 

We took ayahuasca five times with the shamans of Pucallpa, the 
third time using ayahuasca made by Don Fidel and doled out by him. 
This time Kat and Richard got psychedelically stoned. By their testimo- 
ny, the brew worked. I, on the other hand, spent a very hot, sticky night 
meditating on the threshold of an intense psychedelic experience. 
Because of the rigid control of the dose by the shamans, it is nearly im- 
possible for a person of large stature to get an effective dose. There is 
nothing to be done in such a situation, but it was ironic to unwillingly 
become a mere spectator to the drug experience in which I had hoped to 
participate and for which I had come so far. 

On the day following that evening we went with Don Fidel to 
kilometer 29 to collect ayahuasca, with hopes of getting voucher speci- 
mens of the plants comprising the brew. We found the ayahuasca. It was 
a grand specimen — several vines twisted into a cable nearly eight inches 
in diameter. But it was tragically damaged. A ten-foot section had been 
removed between where the plant left the ground and the highest point 
that a standing person could reach with a machete. Nearly all of the 
hundreds of pounds of ayahuasca above the cut were so dried out as to 
be deemed useless. Nonetheless, we managed to fill a burlap bag with 
this low-quality material. We had found the ancient Banisteriopsis, only 
to find it vandalized. 

Because of the size and growth conditions of the Banisteriopsis 
it, it is very difficult to introduce it into new areas or indeed even to 



preserve it in areas where it is now indigenous. Because so much 
biomass is necessary for the ayahuasca brew, Banisteriopsis species are 
particularly susceptible to being overharvested and often therefore are 
in short supply. These huge old vines are certainly growing rarer and 
rarer around population centers, and those who use them must in- 
evitably seek farther and farther afield, which presages a day when their 
scarcity will seriously threaten the ayahuasca cults. 

Many of the early and uncertain reports of ayahuasca's effective- 
ness have been due, 1 believe, to the higher body weight of explorers rel- 
ative to the body weights of their hosts. Of the brews we took, only Don 
Fidel's had been truly effective. All of the inferior ayahuasca that we saw 
was an opaque liquid looking like well-milked coffee that did not settle 
or clear, while Don Fidel's brew was a rich coffee color that after a day 
or so settled out and became a clear, dark tea- or amber-colored liquid. 
How did these other brews manage to appear so different, since Don 
Fidel's method of preparation appears as direct and simple as one could 
imagine? 1 suspect that since ayahuasca is sold by the bottle, these other 
practitioners are very lax. They fail to boil off excess water to obtain a re- 
ally effective concentration. The proper preparation of ayahuasca may 
well be a dying art. 

What we see is a tradition growing vitiated and sterile before our 
eyes. People here brew and take ayahuasca regularly, but rarely is it pre- 
pared with sufficient care and at sufficient concentrations to allow one to 
enter trance on the dose apportioned out at a curing meeting. So the 
usual story is one of exaggerated claims and minimum effectiveness. 
All these difficulties are only compounded for a person with an above- 
average body weight. As a consequence, outsiders have given, and con- 
tinue to give, very different descriptions of the effects. 

Mysteries abounded at even the most mundane level. Don Juan 
arrived late one afternoon, expecting to share with us the bottle of 
ayahuasca we had paid him to prepare and that had served as an un- 
tapped reserve bottle at our last session with Don Fidel's brew. No one 
had seen that bottle since that evening, everyone assuming that Don 
Fidel had transported it to his house. Such was not the case, so grave 
suspicion came to rest on the sobrino, Don Jose. He had slouched into the 
session late, sung badly and loudly and against everyone else's song, 
and left in the early morning hours without a word to anyone. Don Juan 
was certain that the sobrino had stolen the missing bottle. He rushed to 
Don Fidel's and confronted him, saying that Don Fidel's practice was in 
disarray and that taking on the sobrino had been a mistake. It may have 
been that Don Fidel, for reasons unclear, was very reluctant to expel his 
nephew from the ayahuasca sessions. The fate of the missing bottle was 
obscure enough, though we could not even be sure that the outrage 
would rid us of the presence of the sobrino. 


Don Juan finished his description of his visit to Don Fidel's and 
then promised that Friday, Good Friday, we would do a bottle that he 
would prepare. Naturally, we agreed; we always availed ourselves of 
every opportunity to take the brew. Kat was eager to advance into it, 
and I, while holding no great hopes for any particular occasion, still 
hoped to experience the full effects of ayahuasca before we departed. 

At Don Fidel's house we prepared two kilos of the concentrated 
ayahuasca honey to take with us to the States for use there. This cooking 
project occupied the better part of three days. Don Fidel prepared four 
enormous pots, each boiled three hours and drained, then combined and 
reduced to two liters. At its conclusion we had a material of which, we 
were later to learn, two tablespoons was sufficient for visions. My own 
point of view had improved during this cooking, since I found respite 
from a wracking bout of salmonella that left me weakened but still 

In that rather calmer moment between bouts of illness and 
ayahuasca taking, I assessed what we had accomplished. We had been ac- 
cepted into a particular ayahuasca-taking circle and had enough exposure 
to the brew to know that effectiveness depends entirely on the care used 
in making it and on the knowledge and personality of the shaman- 
chemist. The person we met who brewed best was the person to whom 
we were closest. He seemed to hold nothing back in matters of locating 
and identifying plants or in making the brew. For him the heart of la 
ciencia lay in the mystery of the songs and the cures, and of these things 
we were very ignorant. But we were free to return and to learn as much 
as we wished to absorb. Don Fidel knows well the correct way to pre- 
pare ayahuasca, and this in itself is a great secret today. He doubtless 
knows much more that he would share over time. 

Even at that time, without having yet felt the full effects of 
ayahuasca, there were nevertheless things I noticed that seemed to set it 
apart from other hallucinogens. As it comes on it is mildly anesthetic, so 
that the rush is not accompanied by restlessness or any sense of energy 
moving up the spine. Rather, the visions appear without any particular 
somatic effect accompanying them. Generally, except for the vomiting it 
sometimes triggers, ayahuasca seems very smooth, with a very pleasant 
comedown that leaves one invigorated instead of exhausted. In the ini- 
tial rush it is like DMT; later it exhibits the long, coherent visions that 
make its reputation unique. The experience of curing, the vast land- 
scapes, and the communication at a distance are effects that have made 
ayahuasca legendary. 

Don Fidel had said to us in essence that we should use well the 
many ayahuasca trips he was making available to us to take home. If, af- 
ter thirty or more trips, we had been carried to a place where we wished 



to learn more, then we should return here. He was wise to urge us to ex- 
plore ayahuasca against the background of our own culture and expecta- 
tions. For all the interest that the shamanic performances we had 
witnessed had held for us, they had necessitated that we behave as spec- 
tators; yet real understanding of ayahuasca doubtlessly comes from en- 
tering into it as a participant. This can only be done by repeated and 
careful observation, once in a familiar environment and free to experi- 
ment with dosage, setting, and other parameters. 

Don Fidel finished cooking the large batch of ayahuasca that we 
had contracted for. And we made reservations to return to California, 
thus setting an end to our period of field exploration into the phe- 
nomenon of ayahuasca. Once in California we would be able to examine 
the effects of the brew away from the setting that is its natural home and 
in the setting that is our home. Purists might object, but recurring bouts 
of salmonella and various water fevers endemic to jungle Peru had near- 
ly broken our hold on health. These things cannot be avoided when one 
lives as the people live. And of course, we had no resistance acquired 
through long exposure to these diseases. The situation in Amazonian 
Peru is as funky as I found rural Nepal in 1969, the previous record 
holder in these matters. Don Fidel seemed in agreement with our deci- 
sion to depart. He knew we would be better able to gauge the personal 
importance of ayahuasca once we had taken fifteen or twenty flights in- 
side the normal flow and structure of our lives. 

There were many around less sympathetic to gringos than Don 
Fidel. He had really risen to a universal humanism in his dealings with 
people. He invited us to return and allowed himself to boast of strange, 
strong brews he knows how to prepare. What few details could be got- 
ten about these imply no known drugs and so are especially tantalizing. 
"Next time," said Don Fidel, "when you are familiar with ayahuasca and 
have your tape recorder." 

We had hoped to duplicate the ayahuasca brew in California from 
Banisteriopsis plants that we had under cultivation there. But if, as the 
ayahuasqueros maintain, the plants must be at least five years old to pro- 
duce the desired effect, then we were naive to take this approach. 
Perhaps these plants as cultivars in temperate-zone greenhouses will re- 
main merely scientific curiosities and cannot ever become the source of a 
substantial amount of ayahuasca. Probably only a synthetic duplication 
of ayahuasca compounded with the correct percentages of DMT and 
beta-carbolines will ever make the experience available outside the area 
where it is endemic. 

Hallucinogens reveal to the human psyche holographic images 
from all parts of our continuum. Though humanity as a whole may not 
yet be able to integrate these images by undergoing evolutionary waves 



of advancement, our role as investigators is to immerse ourselves in this 
revelation of atemporal images. We need to make deep voyages through 
clear mind space to contemplate the source of these mysteries. This is 
what was elusive during our trip in Peru — the turbulence of physical 
travel made the crystalline mental dimensions we sought all the more 
distant. In Peru we lived the life, saw the plants, met the people, and 
shared all the joys and discomforts — but this, however it may seem, was 
not fieldwork. True fieldwork for us meant being psychedelically ecstat- 
ic and at play in the fields of the Lord in search of the shamanic dimen- 
sion where contact with the Other is likely. 

Once back and among familiar things, we could more clearly 
make comparisons and distinctions. Hallucinogens are a finite set of 
compounds, and by acquiring experience of the effects of the various 
chemically possible hallucinogens it is possible to zero in on those com- 
pounds most reactive with one's own highly individualistic set of physi- 
cal drug receptors. Thus we can slowly leam the chemical route to just 
that set of effects most personally useful and beautiful. Obviously this 
cannot be taught, but must be learned through persistence in attempting 
to define the self in the hallucinogenic dimension. Probably no two 
routes are the same— and different people have different methods, 
though they may use the same plant or substance. Finally, it is the per- 
son and his or her unique place in nature and time that determines the 
depth of the vision vouchsafed. Many have sought to understand the 
way in which persons and families evolve special drug receptors and 
thus special relationships to certain botanical drugs. Choosing an ally 
means finding a physiologically neutral way of repeatedly triggering the 
ecstatic mind state in which contact with the alien modality is possible. 

We anticipated something special at the gathering on the night of 
Holy Saturday. Both Don Fidel and Don Juan would be bringing bottles, 
and the sobrino would not be present. There would be enough ayahuasca 
for everyone to have a proper dose. It was to be our last opportunity to 
take ayahuasca in its native setting. The experience nearly ten days in the 
past had given way to a calm awaiting of whatever this last experience 
would be. I had given up anticipating the content of these experiences. I 
was interested, almost as an outsider, in whether before we departed 
Pucallpa we would meet the visions. 

Our fourth ayahuasca trip made many things appear more clear, 
and a few things less so. Both Kat and I managed to get off, though she 
less than the previous time. My deepest immersion in hallucination oc- 
curred that night, a full-field hallucination of a kind of flowing magenta 
liquid. It seemed very promising but then slowly faded away as quickly 
as it had appeared. A few minutes later I walked outside to get some 
fresh air, and to my surprise I became suddenly sick. I thought that this 



would surely be followed by an intense wave of hallucinations, but 
nothing as strong as the first magenta wave was repeated. I was pleas- 
antly, somatically stoned. I affirmed to Don Fidel that it was good, and 
he seemed gratified. There is no doubt that one can take flight with Don 
Fidel's brew if one is free to increase the dosage until the connection is 

That night I glimpsed a set of issues not explainable by the social 
context in which the brew is taken, adumbrations of the idea that there is 
a vast difference between naturally occurring, one-plant, full-spectrum 
hallucinogens and prepared hallucinogens, even if the latter are com- 
pounded of local plant materials. The unprepared, naturally occurring 
drug is a mystery, stabilized in the genetic component of the plant itself. 
The composition of the active compound remains virtually the same 
over thousands of years — untroubled and uncompromised by the mi- 
grations, epidemics, and vicissitudes that occasionally disrupt the soci- 
ety of its practitioners. 

The case of a difficult-to-prepare combination drug is quite differ- 
ent. For the tradition to remain intact, the correct understanding must be 
preserved and handed on. In such a case the plants themselves lose 
some of their mystery, and that mystery is transferred to the persons 
who prepare and control the power of the drug. Thus the way is open 
for a cult of personality to intrude itself between the hallucinogen and 
the practitioner. The efficacy of a preparation may last only as long as 
the lifetime of the practitioner, and the mystery becomes a hollow sham 
if the drug is not correctly made. 

The night's imagery was drifting and incoherent, comparable to 
the effects of a small amount of mescaline. Ayahuasca seemed a hallu- 
cinogen with less of the internally self-organized quality that character- 
izes mushroom psilocybin, which seems to show that the psilocybin 
experience is not so much self-exploration as an encounter with an orga- 
nized Other. I don't know whether this is a distinction most people in 
my situation would make or whether my long and intense involvement 
with the mushrooms has allowed me, almost without realizing, to devel- 
op an empathy so deep that it has become for me another personality — 
not a chemical substance at all. Though this question hinges on a 
number of subjective factors, it is an important one to answer. It has im- 
plications for another question: whether we are pursuing a phenomenon 
uniquely personal and therefore forever private, or whether there is a 
special mental experience encountered at great depth in the psychedelic 
experience that is qualitatively different and truly hyperdimensional. 

The encounter with the Other seems to occur in fairly deep water. 
Shamans, at least the ayahuasca shamans, are quick to call such au- 
tonomous power complexes evil or demonic. Their approach to ayahuasca 



is usually to dose themselves so as to only slightly exceed the hallucino- 
genic threshold. The more disorienting and profound forms of intoxica- 
tion are kept out of the ceremonies we have seen, probably because these 
are social events and some sort of collective ambience must be main- 
tained. And certainly these states are strange — they are not mere phan- 
tasms drifting before closed eyes, but complete immersions in higher 
topological manifolds and experiences potentially incomprehensible or 
frightening. Individuals may take power to themselves by boldly, even 
recklessly, exploring these dimensions, but even though these places are 
the heart and soul of shamanism, they are too numinous and energy- 
laden to be accessible through a tradition. Instead they must be personal- 
ly discovered in the depths of the psychedelically intoxicated soul. It 
almost requires a modern mentality — or great courage alone — to probe 
this area unflinchingly, for it is the demon-haunted bedrock of being. 

Our trip to Peru and our experiences with ayahuasca convince me 
that even with our modern methods of scientific analysis it is going to 
take courage to understand what these plants show. We have reached 
the point where we must accept all responsibility for the direction we 
follow and then go alone without the comforting delusion that what we 
are trying to define is not unique and unprecedented. These are the 
realms of chaos into which one can go only as deep as one's understand- 
ing shows the way. We each have different capacities to understand and 
different forces driving us toward or away from these mysteries; finally, 
when one finds the edge of what one knows and even the edge of what 
anyone knows, then perhaps one has reached the point where the real 
contact begins. 

Immense novelty is not something guarded by a shamanic guild 
that understands what it guards. Rather, all groups that claim certain 
knowledge of anything are shams. Science and religion are such shams. 
Novelty is unguarded because its domain is everywhere. It presses in on 
the seeker often most obtrusively when he is furthest from the secrets 
that tight-fisted lineages hover over. The power of the Other is humbling 
and magnificent, but because it cannot be bent into power in this world, 
priestcraft turns away from it. It is the "thrown away knowledge" of the 
Luis Senyo Indians of Baja California. It is only seeing and knowing. It 
informs the blessed and abides with them. It is the Logos, the faint out- 
lines of humanity's evolving Overmind casting the enormous shock 
wave of its shadow out over the chaotic centuries that immediately pre- 
cede its rising out of the long cosmic night of human hopes to end pro- 
fane history. 

Under the effects of ayahuasca I often found myself reflecting on 
the phenomenology of the hallucinatory state in general. While the liter- 



my experience it is actually only the peripheral effects that endure so 
long. The period of intense visual activity behind closed eyelids lasts 
more nearly forty minutes to an hour, almost as though the episode of 
hallucination corresponded to the temporary perturbation of some brain 
subsystem by the presence of the psychoactive compound. As soon as 
the brain is able to enzymatically respond to damp the drug-induced 
perturbation, the episode of hallucination ends, though other somatic ef- 
fects may persist for some time. Hallucinations are in part neural phe- 
nomena accompanying an internal fluctuation of the brain state of an 
organism. This internal fluctuation is of an extraordinary sort, since it is 
of a quantum-mechanically delicate enough order to be partially influ- 
enced by will and cognition. 

A few days before we left Peru and at Don Fidel's wife Rosabina's 
urging, we asked Don Fidel about the possibility of taking ayahuasca 
once more. He seemed completely amenable to the notion, so we sched- 
uled the event for the next evening. We would use the same bottle that 
had been drawn from at the last session. 

This would be our fifth ayahuasca voyage in three weeks — an un- 
usually intensive exposure for most hallucinogens, but ayahuasca, aside 
from causing vomiting, seems to have no adverse side effects. In fact, 
each day following a session I felt clarified and revitalized. Such is not 
the case with the frequent use of other hallucinogens. Ayahuasca seems 
benign in the body, but perhaps at higher doses this would be less true. 
Psilocybin is also benign upon early exposure, but done at the frequency 
we had been doing ayahuasca even it would be followed by aching mus- 
cles and enervation on the following day. 

Our fifth trip occurred in the same situation as the others; 
semipublic and in the shed directly adjoining Sra. Angulo's house. 
Nothing radically different could be expected— all the constraints of the 
earlier sessions were in force. On that last ayahuasca voyage an event oc- 
curred that has returned to my mind again and again. We were joined 
that last night for the second time by a man who was an aficionado of 
ayahuasca. He had spent some time on the Rio Negro and in Brazil, al- 
ways pursuing the better brew. He sang a song— which he described as 
de los brassleros — that was almost a miracle. Through the rhyme and 
rhythm each word seemed to have a galaxy of relationship to all the 
words around it. Long warbling runs alternated with pleasing whimsi- 
cal stops and glides. Some Indian languages sound as close to the 
tryptamine glossolalia as anything I have encountered. It was high art — 
a rupture of the mundane plane. 

These ayahuasca experiences seemed to have resolved themselves 
into a series of perspective-widening disillusions. During my last voy- 



cated as on the previous two trips. The dose stuck with me all night 
long, but again the period of even mild hallucination could not have 
lasted more than fifteen minutes. After we returned to Berkeley we 
would find that a larger dosage level of ayahuasca delivered the experi- 
ence we had expected from ayahuasca in its jungle habitat. The shamanic 
curing context is perhaps not the ideal context for determining the pa- 
rameters of any hallucinogen. 

On the brink of return to California, we said our last good-byes to 
the people in the ayahuasca circle. As we were leaving, Don Juan showed 
up with the bottle intended for that night's regular session, and we were 
able to get a sample for analysis from his controversial brew. On our last 
visit to Don Fidel he also gave us a bit more of the esencia, the syrup that 
finally precipitates to the bottom of a well-made bottle of ayahuasca. We 
had learned much and gathered much hallucinogenic material. 

Cities pass like billboards in the night of the mind, one night 
Lima, the next night home. I could not but think as we crossed over the 
Andes of the little circle of people back at Sra. Angulo's house whistling 
and chanting. How strange to have shared their mystery with them and 
to be returning to our own frenzied society that knows nothing of 
ayahuasca. How strange a creature is man; with religion, intoxication, 
dream, and poetry we try to take the measure of the shifting levels of 
self and world. It is a grand enterprise, hedged about with tautology but 
no less grand for that. I hoped that the sense of the special worth of all 
plant hallucinogens that this trip reinforced so unexpectedly would not 
be lost once we had returned to a world whose familiarity should not be 
taken for the merely mundane. 

It had been barely seven weeks since Comet West glowed outside 
the window of our airliner flying south toward Lima, hardly a month 
since Lord Dark left us at Fancho Playa on the Rio Napo. Worlds seemed 
to have come and gone, yet friends who stayed behind in the United 
States hardly realized that any time at all had passed, emphasizing the 
bewildering sense of a density of experience that the traveler is always 
able to make his own. We were not unlike the psychedelic voyager who 
may be absent from company only a single evening and yet may fill that 
evening with years-long odysseys in strange and enchanted worlds, may 
in fact explore strange times and worlds of alternate possibilities in a 
single long silence. 

Once we returned to the States, our ayahuasca would serve as the 
basis for experiments that shed light on its possible ability to synergize 
psilocybin. We worked through those experiments with a sense of their 
place in the context of hallucinogens generally. We needed to reflect on 
the strangeness of the possibilities that the magical plants had made fa- 
miliar to us. We must chart further directions of research that hew to 


People in the Amazon insist on the importance of chanting as a 
vehicle of expression when on tryptamine hallucinogens. This is a vital 
point, since in some way sound can control the topology of the halluci- 
nations. We need to shed our inhibitions and experiment with sound 
and tone in the presence of these compounds. I have long felt this but 
have been uncertain as to how to proceed; the style of chanting of the 
ayahuasqueros is a beginning. 

As I had anticipated during the visit to Peru, I was able to find 
my way into the confidence of the ayahuasca mystery once I was free to 
experiment with dosage and setting. Twice since returning from the 
Peruvian Amazon, Kat and I have taken Don Fidel's brew. Neither of 
these trips was as intense for Kat as her most intense experience in the 
Amazon. I, on the other hand, got much deeper into it than I had ever 
done before. 

The first of these experiments was elusive and unsatisfying. We 
each took fifty milliliters of ayahuasca, which looked to us like the ap- 
proximate dose that we had been given in Peru. 1 experienced a brief 
surge of hallucinations, but of a very banal sort, rather like being lost in 
a vast supermarket. We concluded from this experience that we had 
somehow become inundated by the telepathic background noise of the 
hillside suburban community in which we lived. It made us reluctant to 
repeat the experiment, since a psychedelic brush with the subliminal 
vulgarity of our own culture was somehow much more disturbing than 
had been regular sessions with people who had a whole different lan- 
guage and worldview than our own. 

During that first trip, the subject of the flow of images was shifting 
and seemed impersonal and removed from me: thinking of the imperson- 
al aspect of these images encountered in myself, I formed the aphorism 
"Sailing the ocean of the self; every wave cut by my prow is myself." 
There was a tendency to be drawn into emotional involvement with the 
scenes at once removed from myself. Twice I reminded myself that feel- 
ing frustration at the direction in which the images were flowing was in- 
appropriate, and that I should be open to what is shown me no matter 
how different it may be from my expectations. Kat was as usual more af- 
fected than I. She had audible hallucinations — a strange voice speaking a 
futuristic kind of musical English. Toward the end of her visions she saw 
people in poverty-stricken and sleazy conditions. This may have been the 
DMT in action, since subthreshold DMT experiences often do dissolve 
into squalid or banal images as the experience fades away. 

A few weeks later, and in the company of a friend who, like our- 
selves, had considerable experience with psychedelic agents, we decided 
to try again. This time we each took sixty milliliters initially and then 
about an hour later twenty milliliters more. At last I completely broke 
through. It was a dimension very similar to the state invoked by the 



mushroom psilocybin, leading me to harden my opinion that active 
compounds in Stropharia cubensis must metabolize to some near relative 
of dimethyltryptamine before the effect can take hold. At one point I 
was given a kind of motto, which came unbidden: "Mind conjures mira- 
cles out of time." It was like a Zen koan holding perhaps a clue to the na- 
ture of reality. There were long bursts of science-fiction-related images 
and beautiful hallucinations against a black background, a seeming 
characteristic of the ayahuasca visions. The message from this trip, which 
came as a very deeply felt gestalt perception, was that the Other is in 
man. I felt this more clearly than ever before. Unlike the psilocybin rap- 
ture, which presents itself as an alien intelligence, the ayahuasca seemed 
to have a kind of psychiatric presence that urged the recognition that all 
images and powers of the Other spring from our confrontation with our- 
selves. Like the psilocybin mushrooms, it displayed a network of infor- 
mation that seemed to make accessible the experiences and images of 
many worlds, but ayahuasca insisted that in some sense still unrevealed 
these were ultimately human worlds. 

Mushrooms and Evolution 

FOR PERHAPS tens of millennia human beings have been 
utilizing hallucinogenic mushrooms to divine and to in- 
duce shamanic ecstasy. I propose to show that the hu- 
man/mushroom interaction is not a static symbiotic 
relationship, but rather a dynamic one through which at 
least one of the parties has been bootstrapped to higher 
and higher cultural levels. The impact of hallucinogenic 
plants on the evolution and emergence of human beings is 
a heretofore unexamined phenomenon, yet it promises to 
provide an understanding of not only primate evolution but also the 
emergence of the cultural forms unique to Homo sapiens. 

At Gome National Park in Tanzania, primatologists found that 
one particular species of leaf kept appearing undigested in chimpanzee 
dung. They found that every few days the chimps would vary from their 
usual pattern of eating wild fruit. Instead, they would walk for twenty 
minutes or longer to the site where a species of Aspilia was growing. 
They would repeatedly place their lips over an Aspilia leaf and hold it in 
their mouths. Chimps were seen to pluck a leaf, place it in their mouths, 
roll it around for a few moments, then swallow it whole. In this way as 
many as thirty small leaves might be eaten. 

Biochemist Eloy Rodriguez of the University of California, Irvine, 
isolated the active principle from the Aspilia — a reddish oil now named 
thiarubrine-A. Working with the same substance, Neil Towers of the 


This article appeared in Revision, vol. 10, no. 4, spring 1988. 1 regard it as poten- 
tially significant because it proposes a radical new theory of human evolution. 



University of British Columbia found that this compound can kill com- 
mon bacteria in concentrations of less than one part per million. 
Herbarium records studied by Rodriguez and Towers (1985) showed 
that African peoples used the same leaves to treat wounds and stomach- 
aches. Of the four species of Aspilia native to Africa the indigenous peo- 
ples used only three; the same three species were the ones utilized by 
the chimpanzees. 

These findings show clearly the way in which a beneficial plant, 
once discovered by an animal or a person, can be included in the diet 
and thus confer an adaptive advantage. The animal or person is no 
longer threatened by certain factors in the environment, such as diseases 
that may have previously set constraints on the life span of individuals 
or perhaps upon the growth of the population as a whole. This type of 
adaptive advantage is easily understood. Less easy to understand is the 
way in which plant hallucinogens might have provided similar yet dif- 
ferent adaptive advantages. These compounds do not. catalyze the im- 
mune system into higher states of activity, although this may be a 
secondary effect. Rather, they catalyze consciousness, that peculiar, self- 
reflecting ability that has reached its greatest apparent expression in hu- 
man beings. One can hardly doubt that consciousness, like the ability to 
resist disease, confers an immense adaptive advantage on any individu- 
al who possesses it. 

Consciousness has been called "awareness of awareness" 
(Guenther, 1966) and is characterized by novel connections among the 
various data of experience. Consciousness is like a super nonspecific im- 
mune response. There is no evolutionary limit to how much conscious- 
ness can be acquired by a species. And there is no end to the degree of 
adaptive advantage the acquisition of consciousness will confer upon 
the individual or the species in which it resides. 

There is reason to question the scenario that physical anthropolo- 
gists present us regarding the emergence of human consciousness out of 
binocular, bipedal primates. The amount of time allotted to this oncolog- 
ical transformation of animal organization is excessively brief. Evolution 
in higher animals takes a very long time to occur. For example, the biol- 
ogist who studies the evolution of the early amphibians operates in time 
spans of rarely less than a million years and often speaks in terms of tens 
of millions of years. But the emergence of humans from the higher pri- 
mates is something that has gone on in less than a million years. 
Physically, humans have apparently changed very little in the last mil- 
lion years. But the amazing proliferation of consciousness, of social insti- 
tutions, of coding practices, of cultures, has come so quickly that it is 
difficult for modem evolutionary biologists to account for it. Most do 
not even attempt an explanation. 



There is a hidden factor in the evolution of human beings that is 
neither a "missing link" nor a telos imparted from on high. I suggest 
that this hidden factor in the evolution of human beings, the factor that 
called human consciousness forth from a bipedal ape with binocular vi- 
sion, involved a feedback loop with plant hallucinogens. This is not an 
idea that has been widely explored, though a very conservative form of 
this notion appears in R. Gordon Wasson's Soma: Divine Mushroom of 
Immortality. Wasson does not comment on the emergence of humanness 
out of the primates, but he does suggest hallucinogenic mushrooms as 
the causal agent in the appearance of spiritually aware human beings 
and the genesis of religion. Wasson feels that omnivorous foraging hu- 
mans would have sooner or later encountered hallucinogenic mush- 
rooms or other psychoactive plants in their environment. 

The strategy of these early human omnivores was to eat every- 
thing and to vomit whatever was unpalatable. Plants found to be edible 
by this method were then inculcated into their diet. The mushrooms 
would be especially noticeable because of their unusual form and color. 
The state of consciousness induced by the mushrooms or other hallu- 
cinogens would provide a reason for foraging humans to return repeat- 
edly to those plants, in order to reexperience their bewitching novelty. 
This process would create what C. H. Waddington (1961) called a "cre- 
ode," a pathway of developmental activity (in other words, a habit). 

Habituation to the experience was ensured simply because it was 
ecstatic. "Ecstatic" is a word unnecessary to define except operationally: 
an ecstatic experience is one that one wishes to have over and over 
again. It has been shown in experimental situations that if one creates a 
situation in which N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) can be delivered to a 
monkey on demand, then a large number of monkeys exposed to that 
experimental apparatus will prefer the DMT over food and water. DMT 
was used in these experiments because it is a very short-acting, overt 
hallucinogen that occurs in many different plant species (Jacobs, 1984). 
Though we cannot analyze the laboratory monkeys' state of mind, it is 
very clear that something in the experience impels them to return to the 
stimulus again and again. 

Wasson's idea that religion originated when an omnivorous proto- 
human encountered alkaloids in the environment was countered by 
Mircea Eliade, the most brilliant expositor of the anthropology of 
shamanism and the author of Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. 
Eliade considers what he calls "narcotic" shamanism to be decadent. He 
feels that if one cannot achieve ecstasy without drugs, then one's culture 
is probably in a decadent phase. The use of the word "narcotic" — a term 
usually used for soporifics — to describe this form of shamanism betrays 
an unsettling botanical and pharmacological naivete. Wasson's notion, 



gen in a shamanistic culture that indicates its shamanism is authentic 
and alive. It is the late and decadent phase of shamanism that is charac- 
terized by elaborate rituals, ordeals, and reliance on pathological person- 
alities. Where these latter phenomena are central, shamanism is well on 
its way to becoming simply "religion." 

One view of plant hallucinogens is to see them as interspecies 
pheromones or exopheromones. Pheromones are chemical compounds 
exuded by an organism for the purpose of carrying messages between 
organisms of the same species. The meaning of the message is not intrin- 
sic in the pheromone's chemical structure, but in evolutionarily estab- 
lished convention. Ants, for instance, produce a number of secretions 
with very specific meanings for other ants. However, these chemical 

pheromones of another species. In fact, there is one known case where a 
pheromone means one thing to one ant species and yet bears a com- 
pletely different meaning to another ant species, much in the same way 
that the English word "no" means "yes" in Greek. 

If hallucinogens are operating as exopheromones, then the dy- 
namic symbiotic relationship between primate and hallucinogenic plant 
is actually a transfer of information from one species to another. The pri- 
mate gains increased visual acuity and access to the transcendent Other, 
while the benefits to the mushroom arise out of the primate domestica- 
tion of previously wild cattle and hence the expansion of the niche occu- 
pied by the mushroom. Where plant hallucinogens do not occur, such 
processes cannot take place, but in the presence of hallucinogens a cul- 
ture is slowly introduced to ever more novel information, sensory input, 
and behavior and thus is bootstrapped to higher and higher states of 

It is reasonable to suggest that human language arose out of the 
synergy of primate organizational potential by plant hallucinogens. 
Indeed, this possibility was brilliantly anticipated by Henry Munn in his 
essay "The Mushrooms of Language" (1973). Munn writes: 

Language is an ecstatic activity of signification. Intoxicated by the mush- 
rooms, the fluency, the ease, the aptness of expression one becomes capa- 
ble of are such that one is astounded by the words that issue forth from 
the contact of the intention of articulation with the matter of experience. 
The spontaneity the mushrooms liberate is not only perceptual, but lin- 
guistic. For the shaman, it is as if existence were uttering itself through 

Other writers have sensed the importance of hallucinations as cat- 
alysts of human psychic organization. Julian Jaynes, in his controversial 
book The 




(1977), makes the point that there may have been major shifts in human 
self-definition even in historical times. He proposes that through 
Homeric times people did not have the kind of interior psychic organi- 
zation that we take for granted. What we call ego was for pre-Homeric 
people what they called a "god." When danger threatened suddenly and 
unbidden, the god's voice was heard in the individual's mind, a kind of 
metaprogram for survival called forth under great stress. This integra- 
tive psychic function was perceived by those experiencing it to be either 
the direct voice of a god; the direct voice of the leader of the society, the 
king; or the direct voice of the dead king, the king in the afterlife. 
Merchants and traders moving from one society to another brought the 
unwelcome news that the gods were saying different things in different 
places, and so cast early seeds of doubt. At some point people integrated 
(in the Jungian sense) this previously autonomous function, and each 
person became the god and reinterpreted the inner voice as the "self" or, 
as it was later called, the "ego." 

Hallucinogenic plants may have been the catalysts for everything 
about us that distinguishes us from other primates, except perhaps the 
loss of body hair. All of the mental functions that we associate with 
humanness, including recall, projective imagination, language, naming, 
magical speech, dance, and a sense of religio may have emerged out of 
interaction with hallucinogenic plants. Our society more than others will 
find this theory difficult to accept, because we have made pharmacologi- 
cally obtained ecstasy a taboo. Sexuality is a taboo for the same reason: 
such things are consciously or unconsciously sensed to be entwined 
with the mysteries of where we came from and how we got to be the 
way we are. A theory of plant hallucinogens as central to the origin of 
mind suggests a scenario such as the following: 

We know that the Sahara was much wetter as recently as four or 
five thousand years ago. The Roman historian Pliny referred to North 
Africa as "Rome's breadbasket." The presumption is that over the last 
one hundred and fifty thousand years the Sahara has grown gradually 
drier, changing from a subtropical forest to grasslands and, recently, to 
desert. When the grasslands first appeared, the arboreal adaptation of 
the primates ill served their continued survival. They left the trees and 
began to foray onto the grasslands. Their arboreally evolved repertoire 
of troop signals came under pressure to further expand. It has been sug- 
gested that it was the generation of hunting-pack signaling such as oc- 
curs in wolves and dogs that served as the basis for language. But 
another result of moving out of the trees and onto the grasslands was 
the likelihood of encountering the manure of ungulate herbivores, and 
in the same situation coprophilic (dung-loving) mushrooms. Several 
species of psilocybin-containing mushrooms are coprophilic; Amanita 


The far fewer number of plant species that characterizes grass- 
lands in contrast with forests makes it highly likely that any grassland 
plant encountered would be tested for its food potential. The eminent 
geographer Carl Saur (1973) feels that there is no such thing as a natural 
grassland. He suggests that all grasslands are human artifacts resulting 
from burning. He bases this argument on the fact that all grassland 
species can be found present in the understory of the forests at the edge 
of the grasslands, but a very high percentage of the forest species are ab- 
sent in the grasslands. From this he argues that the grasslands are so re- 
cent that they must be seen as concomitant with the rise of large human 

The next step in the cultural evolution of the bipedal pack-hunting 
primates was the domestication of some of the browsing herbivores. 
With the animals and their manure came the mushrooms, and the 
human-mushroom relationship was further enhanced and deepened. 

Evidence for these speculations can be found in southern Algeria. 
There is an area called the Tassili Plateau, a curious geological forma- 
tion. It is like a labyrinth, a vast badlands of stone escarpments that have 
been cut by the wind into many perpendicular narrow corridors, almost 
like an abandoned city. And in the Tassili there are rock paintings that 
date from the late neolithic to as recently as two thousand years ago. 
Here are the earliest known depictions of shamans in coincidence with 
large numbers of grazing animals, specifically, cattle (Lhote, 1959; 
Lajoux, 1963). The shamans, dancing and holding fistfuls of mushrooms, 
also have mushrooms sprouting out of their bodies.* Similar images oc- 
cur in pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles wherein the shaman is shown 
holding an object that has been identified as either a chopper or a mush- 
room. Chopping tools have been found that resemble the depicted ob- 
ject. Unlike the Peruvian images, with the Tassili frescoes the case is 
clear. Here we see dancing shamans with six, eight, ten mushrooms 
clutched in their hands and sprouting from their bodies. 

The herding peoples who produced the Tassili paintings moved 
out of Africa over a long period of time, perhaps from twenty thousand 
to five thousand years ago. Wherever they went, their pastoral life-style 
went with them. The Red Sea was landlocked at that time. The boot of 
Arabia was backed up against the African continent. The land bridge 
there was utilized by some of these African pastoralists to enter the fer- 
tile crescent and later Asia Minor, where they intermingled with popula- 
tions already present and became well established by twelve thousand 

This connection between the Tassili art and mushroom use was discovered and pointed 
out to me by Jeff Gaines, an ethnomycologist and art historian living in Boulder, Colorado. 
It was he who recognized the implications of the Tassili images for the role of mushroom 
; in human] 

Mushroom shamans from Malalen-Amazar on the Tassili Plateau. Done in the Round- 
Head style, these rock paintings date from sometime before 6000 B.C. (Pencil sketches by 



years ago. These pastoral people had a cult of cattle and a cult of the 
Great Goddess. The evidence for this comes from a number of sites in 
Southern Anatolia, the best researched being Catal Huyuk, a site dated 
to eight to nine thousand b.p. Catal Huyuk has only begun to be excavat- 
ed and contains amazing shrines with cattle bas-reliefs and heads of the 
cattle covered with ocher designs— the very complex paintings of a very 
complicated civilization (Mellaart, 1965, 1967). 

It is possible to see in the confluence of the cult of the Great 
Goddess and the cattle cult a recognition and an awareness of the mush- 
room as the third and chthonic member of a kind of late Neolithic trini- 
ty. For the mushroom, seen to be as much a product of the cattle as milk, 
meat, and manure, was the pipeline to the presence of the Goddess. 
Recently Riane Eisler in her important revisioning of history, The Chalice 
and the Blade, has advanced the important notion of "partnership" mod- 
els of society being in competition and oppressed by "dominator" forms 
of social organization. These latter are hierarchical, paternalistic, materi- 
alistic, and male dominated. Her position is that it is the tension between 
these two forms of social organization and the overexpression of the 
dominator model that is responsible for our alienation. I am in complete 
agreement with Eisler's view. In fact, this essay asks a question that is an 
extension of her argument. What was the factor that maintained the 
equilibrium of the partnership societies of the late Neolithic, and what 
factor faded and in fading set the stage for the emergence of the evolu- 
tionarily maladaptive dominator model? 

I believe that it is the depth of the relationship of a human group 
to the gnosis of the vegetable mind, the Gaian collectivity of organic life, 
that determines the strength of the group's connection to the archetype 
of the Goddess and hence to the partnership style of social organization. 
The last time that the mainstream of Western thought was refreshed by 
the gnosis of the vegetable mind was at the close of the Hellenistic Era, 
when the Eleusinian mysteries were finally suppressed by enthusiastic 
Christian barbarians (Wasson et al., 1978). 

The late Medieval church that conducted the great witch burn- 
ings was very concerned that all credit for episodes of magic and de- 
rangement should be given to the devil— hence, the church suppressed 
knowledge of plants such as datura, deadly nightshade, and monkshood 
and the role that they were playing in the nocturnal gatherings and ac- 
tivities of the practitioners of the craft. After all, we cannot have a devil 
who is such a diminished figure that he must rely on mere herbs to work 
his wiles. The devil must be a worthy foe of the Christos, and hence 
nearly coequal (Duerr, 1985). 

My conclusion is that taking the next evolutionary step, the 
Archaic Revival, the rebirth of the Goddess, and the ending of profane 
history are agendas that implicitly contain within themselves the notion 



of our reinvolvement with and the emergence of the vegetable mind. 
That same mind that coaxed us into self-reflecting language now offers 
us the boundless landscapes of the imagination. Without such a relation- 
ship to psychedelic exopheromones regulating our symbiotic relation- 
ship with the plant kingdom, we stand outside of an understanding of 
planetary purpose. And understanding of planetary purpose may be the 
major contribution that we can make to the evolutionary process. 
Returning to the bosom of the planetary partnership means trading the 
point of view of the ego for the intuitional translinguistic understanding 
of the maternal matrix. 

The people of Catal Hiiyuk and other Mesopotamian peoples ex- 
isted undisturbed in the ancient Middle East for a long time, practicing 
their Mother Goddess religion. Then, around five to seven thousand b.p., 
a different kind of people with wheeled chariots, patriarchy, and a ritual 
involving horse sacrifice swept down from north of the Caspian Sea into 
Turkey and Anatolia, and what is now Iraq and Iran, encountering the 
pastoral, mushroom-using lowlanders. These invaders are the people 
that Wasson has suggested were the bearers of soma. He felt that soma, 
the intoxicating plant of the Vedic hymns, may have been the mushroom 
Amanita muscaria. A mushroom mystery cult was carried out of the 
forests of Central Asia by Aryan people who eventually settled in India. 

The problem with this hypothesis is that A. muscaria is not a reli- 
able visionary hallucinogen. It has proven difficult to obtain a consis- 
tently ecstatic intoxication from Amanita muscaria. Much ink has been 
shed over this problem. Some have suggested that A. muscaria must be 
pounded with milk curd in order to decarboxylate muscarine, the active 
toxin, into muscamol, the hallucinogenic constituent. Others have sug- 
gested that the Amanita must be dried or roasted and aged before it is 
rendered nontoxic and effective. The fact of the matter is that muscamol 
is not a deep hallucinogen even when used as a pure compound. 
Wasson was on the right track, correctly recognizing the potential of 
Amanita muscaria to induce religious feeling and ecstasy, but he did not 
take into account the imagination and linguistic stimulation imparted by 
the input of African psilocybjn-containing mushrooms into the evolu- 
tion of Old World mycolatry. 

We know 

sis or Stropharia cubensis, is circumtropical in its distribution, occurring 
throughout the warm, wet tropics wherever cattle of the Bos indicus type 
are present. This raises a number of questions. Is P. cubensis exclusively a 
creature of the manure of Bos indicus, or can it occur in the manure of 
other cattle? How recently has it reached its various habitats? The first 
specimen of Psilocybe cubensis was collected by Earle in Cuba in 1906, yet 
current botanical theory places the actual point of origin for the species 
i Kampuchea. An archaeological dig in Thailand at a place called Non 


Nak Tha has been dated to 15,000 b.p., and there the bones of Bos indicus 
have been found coincident with human graves. Some of the bones have 

and presumably smoke vegetable material. Chillums of the Non Nak 
Tha type are used even today among yoga-sadhus throughout India. 
Psiloq/be cubensis is common in the Non Nak Tha area today. 

At what point, then, did P. cubensis enter the New World? In 
Southern Mexico coincident with the Mayan cultural area, natives use a 
number of psilocybin-containing mushrooms: Psilocybe mexicana, P. 
aztecorum, P. maztecorum, and others. These mushrooms constitute the 
Mexican mushroom complex discovered by Valentina and Gordon 
in the early fifties. Psiloq/be cubensis also occurs in these areas, 
ig especially prolific at Palenque. Palenque is the site of the ruins of 
one of the most exquisite cities of the Mayan climax. Many people have 
taken the mushrooms at Palenque and have had the impression that 
they were ingesting the sacred sacrament of the people who built this 
fabulous abandoned seventh-century Mayan city, but this notion is dis- 
puted by modern botanists. We cannot be certain that P. cubensis was the 
mushroom sacrament of the Maya. Most orthodox botanists argue that 
P. cubensis entered the New World with the Conquest, transported by 
Spanish and their cattle. In the absence of a decipherment of the 
Mayan glyphs, it is not easy to imagine how such a matter could be 
proved or disproved. In my opinion, given the long viability of the 
spores and the generally prevailing winds at the equator, the circum- 
tropical distribution of P. cubensis is probably a very old fact of the ecol- 
ogy of the planet. 

What seems reasonable to suggest is that the Indo-European peo- 
I coming out of central Asia contacted valley-dwelling, pastoral, part- 
nership cultures and assimilated from them the cult of the coprophilic 
psilocybin-containing mushroom, carrying it eastward into India. The 
evidence is thin, but, on the other hand, the evidence has not been 
sought. After all, the current desert climate of the region encompassing 
Iraq, Iran, southern Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia makes this a very 
unlikely place to look for archaeological evidence of a mushroom cult. 
However, Robert Graves's Food for Centaurs discusses how a taboo usu- 
ally indicates an earlier historical involvement with the forbidden item 
in the inventory of the culture. And mushrooms, which are hardly to be 
found in the contemporary environment where these religions are prac- 
ticed, are very taboo in the substratum of primitive Zoroastrianism, 
Mandaeanism, and the undifferentiated cult religions that preceded 
them. Mandaeanism specifically forbids the eating of mushrooms, ac- 
cording to Wasson (Wasson, Hofmann, and Ruck, 1978). 

In The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, John Allegro, concentrating 
in Palestine, makes a controversial case that 



be judged only by Sumerian philologists. He posits that there are mush- 
room words, phrases, and symbols that can be traced through Akkadian 
into old Akkadian, back into Sumerian, and that mushrooms were used 
very early in this area. My own approach has been to work forward 
from the Vedas. The Vedas are hymns that the Indo-European people 
composed somewhere along their millennia-long peregrinations to 
India. The Ninth Mandala of the Rig Veda especially goes into great de- 
tail about soma and states that soma stands above the gods. Soma is the 
supreme entity. Soma is the moon; soma is masculine. Here we have a 
rare phenomenon: a male lunar deity. The connection between the femi- 
nine and the moon is so deep and obvious that a lunar male deity stands 
out, making its traditional history in the region easy to trace. 

I reexamined the mythologies of the Near East, trying to find a lu- 
nar god that would prove that this idea had been imported to India from 
the West. I found that the Sumerian civilization's northernmost outpost 
was a city called Harran, a city traditionally associated with the begin- 
ning of astrology. Invented in Harran, astrology spread to China, later to 
Egypt and throughout the ancient world. The patron deity of the city of 
Harran was a moon god, Sin or Nannar. Sin was male and wears a cap 
that looks like a mushroom. No other deity in that pantheon has this 
headgear. I found three examples of Sin or Nannar on cylinder seals, 
and in each case the headgear was prominent. In one instance the ac- 
companying text by a nineteenth-century scholar mentions that this 
headgear was in fact the identifier for the god (Maspero, 1894). 

Why was the Aryan deity connected with the mushroom per- 
ceived as male? Though this is a problem for folklorists and mytholo- 
gists, certain points are obvious. German folklore has always associated 
the moon with the masculine, and the mushroom will take the projection 
of masculinity or femininity with equal ease. It is obviously connected to 
the moon: it has a lustrous, silvery appearance in certain forms, and it 
seems to appear at night when the moon rules the heavens. On the other 
hand, one can shift the point of view and suddenly see the mushroom as 
masculine: it is solar in color, phallic in appearance, and imparts a great 
energy. The mushroom is actually an androgynous shape-shifting deity 
that can take various forms relative to the predisposition of the culture 
encountering it. One can almost say that it is a mirror of cultural expec- 
tations. That is why for the Indo-Europeans it took on a masculine quali- 
ty and why in other situations it seems to have a very lunar quality. 
Either way, it is a hallucinogen that is not wild, that is associated with 
the domestication of animals and with human culture. This association 
with domesticated animals implicates the mushrooms in the cultural de- 
velopment of the Indo-Europeans, the people who wrote the Vedas. 

These same Indo-Europeans were the authors of a breakthrough 
ontology. For them there were no sacred rivers, no sacred 



trees, no holy mountains. They transcended geography in their notion of 
deity. They built a fire, and where the fire was kindled the center of the 
universe came to rest. They had discovered the transcendence of time 
and space. A sacramental plant hallucinogen that is linked to the dung 
of domesticated animals means that the sacrament is as nomadic as the 
people and animals that provide its favored milieu. 

There are a number of problems with this theory, one of which is 
the lack of confirmation in India of the presence of Psiloq/be cubensis or 
other psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Amanita muscaria is also rare in 
India. I predict, however, that a careful search of the flora of India will re- 
veal P. cubensis as an indigenous component of the biome of the subconti- 
nent. And I maintain that the desertification of the entire area from North 
Africa to the Tarr region around Delhi has distorted our conception of 
what occurred in the prehistoric evolution of religious ontology when 
these civilizations were in their infancy and the area was much wetter. It 
is my suggestion that the mushroom religion is actually the generic reli- 
gion of human beings and that all later adumbrations of religion stem 
from the cult of ritual ingestion of mushrooms to induce ecstasy. 

A rethinking of the role that hallucinogenic plants and fungi have 
played in the promotion of human emergence from the substrata of pri- 
mate organization can help to lay the basis for a new appreciation of the 
unique confluence of factors responsible and necessary for the evolution 
of human beings. The widely felt intuition of the presence of the Other 
as a female companion to the human navigation of history can, I believe, 
be traced back to the immersion in the vegetable mind that provided the 
ritual context in which human consciousness emerged into the light of 
self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-articulation: the light of the Great 

Please see my Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (New York: 
Bantam, 1992) for a fuller discussion of the relationship between hallucinogenic mush- 

"New Dimensions" Interview 

MT: THE SEARCH for self-knowledge has occupied 
humanity for millennia, assuming many different 
guises. In our modern technical information culture 
the deeper meaning is often overlooked as we race 
helter-skelter toward an unknown end. Questions of 
values, ethics, and personal meaning are repressed 
under the holy banner of practicality and living in 
the real world. John Naisbitt, the author of Megatrends, 
points out that we are drowning in information but starved for knowl- 
edge. And yet, at the same time, one researcher has estimated that 80 
percent of the public is involved in some aspect of self-fulfillment. 
Another paradox to ponder, since both may be true. The quest for lib- 
eration is a journey through paradox, and perhaps by noticing how 
other cultures and social milieus have incorporated the search, we can 
learn more about our own. We live in exciting times, in which the ex- 
ternal reality we perceive is catalyzing a renewed momentum toward 
exploring our internal reality. 

Our guest today, Terence McKenna, is one of those cultural point 
writers who commands our attention, not so much for the answers 
he has found, but rather because of the questions he poses. He is the 
coauthor, with his brother Dennis, of The Invisible Landscape: Mind, 
Hallucinogens, and the I Ching, and generally functions as a freelance 
writer, reading and researching. 

My name is Michael Toms. I'll be your host for the next hour. 
Terence, welcome. 

Michael Toms interviewed me for his "New Dimensions" radio show sometime 
in 1985. What follows is an edited transcript. 



TM: Thank you very much; it's a pleasure to be here. 

MT: Well, do you think we're in a state of transition? Are we 
moving from one culture to another? 

TM: We are certainly in a state of transition; we have arrived at 
nothing less than the end of history. However, it is not something to be 
alarmed about. I imagine it's simply the normal situation that prevails 
when a species is preparing to depart for the stars. 

MT: Do you think we're preparing to depart for the stars? 

TM: On the scale of a hundred or a thousand years, I think it's an 
unavoidable conclusion. That span of time in geological terms is hardly 
the wink of an eye. In fact, from that perspective, all of human history 

appears as a preparation for human transcendence of planetary exis- 



MT: Do we want to get away from the planet? 

TM: I think you have to take the view that certainly the planet is 
the cradle of mankind, but, inevitably, one cannot remain in the cradle 
forever. The human imagination, in conjunction with technology, has 
become a force so potent that it really can no longer be unleashed on the 
surface of the planet with safety. The human imagination has gained 
such an immense power that the only environment that is friendly to it 
is the vacuum of deep space. It is there that we can erect the architecton- 
ic dreams that drive us to produce a Los Angeles or a Tokyo, and do it 
on a scale and in such a way that it will be fulfilling rather than degrad- 
ing. So, yes, I think we cannot move forward in understanding without 
accepting as a consequence that we have to leave the planet. We are no 
longer the bipedal monkeys we once were. We have become almost a 
new force in nature. I think of language and cybernetics as an amalgam 
of computers and human brains and societal structures that has such an 
enormous forward momentum that the only place where it can express 
itself without destroying itself is, as James Joyce says, "up n'ent." 

ciety may be in our future? As opposed to our past? 

TM: It's in our present, I think. Our future is probably almost 
unimaginable. I think the transformation that leaving the planet will 
bring will also involve a transformation of our consciousness. We are 



not going as 1950s-style human beings; we are going to have to trans- 
form our minds before we are going to be able to leave the planet with 
any amount of grace. This is where I think the psychedelics come in, be- 
cause they are anticipations of the future. They seem to channel informa- 
tion that is not available by the laws of normal causality, so the 
experience is really that of a prophetic dimension — a glimpse of the po- 
tential of the far centuries of the future through these compounds. No 
cultural shift of this magnitude can be unambiguous. The very idea that 
as a species we would leave the earth behind us must be as rending an 
idea as that a child would leave its childhood home. Obviously, it's a 
turning away from something that, once left behind, can never be recap- 
tured. However, this is the nature of going forward into being: a series 
of self-transformations, a sense of level shifting. And we now simply 
happen to have reached the moment of ascent to a new level that is 
linked to leaving the planetary surface physically and to reconnecting 
with the contents of the unconscious collectivity of our minds. These 
two things will be done simultaneously. This is what the last half of the 
twentieth century, it seems to me, is all about. 

MT: By and large, psychedelics have really not been accepted 
into the mainstream. Do you see a change in that? 

TM: Not particularly. They hold a certain fascination for a persis- 
tent minority, and in that way they do their catalytic work upon society, 
which is to introduce new ideas and to release a certain kind of creative 
energy into society. I certainly would not like to see a return to the 
psychedelic hysterias of the 1960s. I think it's fine that these things are 
now the subject of interest of a much smaller group of people, but per- 
haps a group of people with a greater commitment, a better idea of ex- 
actly what these things are. It's really the same people; it's just a smaller 
group of them, and they have accumulated experience over the past 
twenty years, though I certainly don't think all psychedelic frontiers are 

One of the subjects that I write and speak about is a phenomenon 
many people experience with the psilocybin family of hallucinogens that 
has not been included in the standard model of psychedelic substances. I 
am referring to the Logos-like phenomenon of an interior voice that 
seems to be almost a superhuman agency — a kind of genus loci. I consid- 
er this an alien intelligence — an entity so beyond the normal structure of 
the ego that if it is not an extraterrestrial it might as well be. Its 

bizarreness and its distance fi 
so great that if flying saucers ; 
would make this mystery no 
me that the scientific commui 

jinary expectations about reality is 
here tomorrow from the Pleiades it 
mpelling in comparison. It amuses 


restrial intelligence and defined it as they care to define it and have ded- 
icated radio telescopes to search the galaxy for signals. The world's 
largest radio telescope is at Arecibo in Puerto Rico, and within the shad- 
ow of that installation, psychedelic mushrooms grow in the fields and 
the cows graze quietly in the sunshine. It's a marvelous interpenetration 
of the near and the faraway. I believe that the place to search for ex- 
traterrestrials is in the psychic dimension, and there the problem is not 
the absence of communication but an abundance of signals that must be 
sifted through, because the fact of the matter is that shamans and mys- 
tics and seers have been hearing voices and talking to gods and demons 
since Paleolithic times and probably before. We shouldn't rule out this 
approach to communication. It seems to me far more likely that an ad- 
vanced civilization would communicate interdimensionally and tele- 
pathically, and the amounts of time available for an intelligent species to 
have evolved these kinds of communication are vast. 

I think that it's very interesting then that the tryptamines, psilocy- 
bin and DMT, at effective doses, very reliably trigger what could only be 
described as contactlike phenomena, not only the interior voice in the 
head, but also the classical flying saucer motifs of the whirling disc, the 
lens-shaped object, the alien approach. This seems to be something hard- 
wired into the human psyche, and I would like to find out why. I think 
it's a very odd fact of human psychology, and I don't buy any of the cur- 
rent theories, ranging from that nothing at all is happening to that this 
is, in fact, a species from a world around another star that is getting in 
touch with us. I think this alien intelligence is something so bizarre that 
it actually masquerades as an extraterrestrial so as not to alarm us by the 
true implications of what it is. 

MT: Your statement implies that it's something external to our- 
selves, and I wonder about that. 

TM: This dualism of the interior and the exterior may have to be 
overcome. It obviously transcends the individual. But I suspect it is 
something like an Overmind of the species and that the highest form of 
human organization is not realized in the democratic individual. It is re- 
alized in a dimension none of us has ever penetrated — the mind of the 
species. It is the hand at the tiller of history. It is no government, no reli- 
gious group, but actually what we call the human unconscious; howev- 
er, it is not unconscious, and it is not simply a cybernetic repository of 
myth and memory. It is an organized entelechy of some sort, and 
though human history is its signature on the primates, it is very different 
from the primates. It is like a creature of pure information. It is made of 
language. It releases ideas into the flowing stream of history to boost the 
primates toward higher and higher levels of self-reflection. We have 



now reached the point where the masks are beginning to fall away and 
we are discovering that there is an angel within the monkey, struggling 
to get free. This is what the historical crisis is all about. I am very opti- 
mistic. I see it as a necessary chaos that will lead to a new and more at- 

MT: Terence, you were talking about extraordinary realities, and 
it occurs to me that there is an enormous amount of prejudice against 
the psychedelics and the use of hallucinogenic substances, almost as if 
there's an inordinate fear to open up the closet that these substances re- 
veal. What about that prejudice? How is it going to be resolved? What is 
the resolution of that? 

TM: I think it's more complicated than a prejudice. It's a preju- 
dice bom of respect, because most people sense that these compounds 
probably actually do what their adherents claim they do. It's possible to 
see the whole human growth movement of the 1970s as a wish to contin- 
ue the inward quest without having to put yourself on the line the way 
you had to when you took 250 gamma of LSD. I think all these other 
methods are efficacious, but I think it's the sheer power of hallucinogens 
that puts people off. You either love them or you hate them, and that's 
because they dissolve worldviews. If you like the experience of having 
your entire ontological structure disappear out from under you — if you 
think that's a thrill — you'll probably love psychedelics. On the other 
hand, for some people that's the most horrible thing they can possibly 
imagine. They navigate reality through various forms of faith; whereas 
with the psychedelics the doors of perception are cleansed and you see 
very, very deeply. 

I spent time in India and I always visited the local sadhus of great 
reputation. I met many people who possessed what I call wise-old-man 
wisdom, but wise-old-man wisdom is a kind of Tao of how to live. It has 
nothing to say about the dimensions that the psychedelics reveal. For 
that you have to go places where hallucinogenic shamanism is practiced, 
Uy the Amazon Basin, and there you discover that beyond the 
' how to live in ordinary reality there is a gnosis of how 
to navigate in extraordinary reality. This reality is so extraordinary that 
we cannot approach what these people are doing with any degree of 
smugness, because the frank fact of the matter is that we have no more 
viable theory of what Mind is than they. The beliefs of a Witoto shaman 
and the beliefs of a Princeton phenomenologist have an equal chance of 
being correct, and there are no arbiters of who is right. Here is some- 
thing we have not assimilated. We have been to the moon, we have 
charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a 
fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all 



the contradictions flow together. The kind of prejudice leveled against 
psychedelics attended psychoanalysis during the twenties and thirties 
when it was thought to be superfluous or some kind of fad. Psychedelics 
touch a very sensitive nerve. They touch the issue of the nature of hu- 
mans, and some people are uncomfortable with this. 

MT: What is the value of exploring extraordinary realities? 

TM: I believe it's the same value that attends the exploration of 
ordinary realities. There's an alchemical saying that one should read the 
oldest books, climb the highest mountains, and visit the broadest 
deserts. I think that being imposes some kind of obligation to find out 
what's going on, and since all primary information about what is going 
on comes through the senses, any plant or any compound that alters that 
sensory input has to be looked at very carefully. I've often made the 
point that, chemically speaking, you can take a molecule that is com- 
pletely inactive as a psychedelic, reposition a single atom on one of its 
rings, and suddenly it's a powerful psychedelic. Now it seems to me that 
this is a perfect proof of the interpenetration of matter and mind. The 
movement of a single atom from one known position to another known 
position changes an experience from nothing to overwhelming. This 
means that mind and matter, at the quantum-mechanical level, are all 
spun together. This means in a sense that the term extraordinary reality is 
not correct if it implies a division of category from ordinary reality. It is 
simply that there is more and more and more of reality, and some of 
it is inside our heads and some of it is deployed out through three- 
dimensional Newtonian space. 

MT: I think most of us just simply accept the everyday reality as 
the only one. You're talking about journeys into nether regions far be- 
yond most people's conception or desire. 

TM: I think there's a shamanic temperament that is characterized 
by a craving for knowledge — knowledge in the Greek sense of gnosis. In 
other words, knowledge not of the sort where one subscribes to Scientific 
American and it validates what you believe, but cosmologies constructed 
out of immediate experiences that are always found to be applicable. 
You see, I don't believe that the world is made of quarks or electromag- 
netic waves, or stars or planets, or any of these things. I believe the 
World is made of language and that this is the primary fact that has been 
overlooked. The construction of the flying saucer is not so much a dilem- 
ma of hardware as it is a poetic challenge. People find it very hard to 
imagine exactly what I'm talking about. What I'm saying is that the lead- 
ing edge of reality is mind, and that mind is the primary substratum of 



being. We in the West have had it the wrong way around for over a mil- 
lennium, but once this is clearly understood, using what we have 
learned in our little excursion through three-dimensional space and mat- 
ter, we will create a new vision of humanity that will be a fusion of the 
East and the West. 

MT: You suggest that the world is made of language, yet I think 
of these extraordinary realities that are totally beyond any language that 
we use in any ordinary sense. 

TM: Yes, they are beyond ordinary language. I always think of 
Philo Judaeus writing on the Logos. He posed to himself the question, 
"What would be a more perfect Logos?" and then he answered, saying it 
would be a Logos that is not heard but beheld. And he imagined a form 
of communication where the ears would not be the primary receptors, 
but the eyes would be. A language where meaning was not constructed 

jects were actually generated with a kind of hyperlanguage so that there 
was perfect understanding between people. This may sound bizarre in 

lalia are commonplace in psychedelic states. 

MT: Terence, could you identify Philo for us and tell us who he 


TM: He was an Alexandrian Jew of the second century who 
made it his business to travel around the Hellenistic world discussing all 
the major cults and religious and cosmogonic theories of his day. So he's 
a major source of Hellenistic data for us. 

MT: How would you relate to Socrates' view of the world? 

TM: I think that it's hard not to be a Platonist, but it's something 
that perhaps we should struggle against, or at least struggle to modify. I 
think of myself as sort of a Whiteheadian Platonist. Certainly the central 
Platonic notion, that of the Ideas — archetypal forms that stand outside of 
time — is one that is confirmed by the psychedelic experience. The 
Neoplatonists — the school of Plotinus and Porphyry — are psychedelic 
philosophers. Their idea of an ascending hierarchy of increasingly more 
rarified states is a sophisticated presentation of the shamanic cosmology 
that one experientially discovers when one is involved with psychedelics. 

MT: What I think most of us don't realize is that Greek culture 
and the Eleusinian mysteries incorporated the use of something very 


akin to psychedelics. Essentially Western civilization is based on a cul- 
ture that had at its core an experience and a ritual that used 

TM: Yes, for over two thousand years everyone who was anyone 

ence that Gordon Wasson and Carl Ruck have argued very convincingly 
was a hallucinogenic intoxication produced by ergot. But of course, as 
soon as the church solidified its power, it closed these Platonic academies 
and moved against so-called pagan and heretical knowledge. Not only 
the Platonists but all the Gnostic sects and mystery schools were re- 
pressed. I like to think that this repression ended in a very odd way when 
in 1953 Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina, discovered the psilocy- 
bin mushroom cult in the village of Huatla de Jimenez. It was as if Eros, 
who had been martyred in the Old World, was found sleeping in the 
mountains of Mexico and resurrected. The experience of the mushroom 
is very much the experience of a genus loci, a god on the Grecian model — 
not the god who hung the stars in heaven, but a local god, a pre- 
Christian, bacchanalian nature power that is very alien and yet resonates 
with our expectations of what that experience would be like. 

MT: Interesting that the mushroom is a symbol in our culture of 
death and destruction — the symbol of the nuclear explosion. 

TM: Yes, my brother has made the point, asking, "What mush- 
room is it that grows at the end of history? Is it the mushroom of Fermi 
and Oppenheimer and Teller, or is it the mushroom of Wasson and 
Albert Hofmann and Humphrey Osmond?" 

MT: Somehow I think the la tter is safer. 

TM: It may not only be safer; it may open the way to escape from 
former. It's like a pun of physics that the force of liberation and the 
of destruction could take the same form. It's what alchemists call 
the coincidencia oppositorum. 

MT: It seems an amazing synchronicity. I was interested in talk- 
; with Andy Weil, the author of The Natural Mind, about the fact that 
a new genus of psilocybin-containing mushrooms is appearing that has 
/er been seen before. It's almost as if they're appearing now for a 

TM: It's amazing how many new species have been discovered 
?le have bent their attention to hallucinogenic mushrooms. 



There have been psilocybin mushrooms reported from England and 
France, localities where, so far as we know, there is no cultural history of 
usage at all. However, it's interesting that cultural usage seems to come 
very early in human history. Hallucinogens are hardly welcome in agri- 
cultural societies. I think it was Weston La Barre who made the point 
that once one learns how to grow plants one's gods shift from the ecstat- 
ic gods of the hallucinogens to the corn god or the food god, and life is 
no longer about divining the hunt and the weather through the ecstatic 
use of hallucinogens. Rather it becomes about being able to get up every 
morning and go to work and hoe the crop. You mentioned earlier the 
prejudice against hallucinogens. I think cultural suppression of hallu- 
cinogens reaches back to the beginning of agriculture when there was 
competition among plant gods that exemplified life-styles that were 
alien to each other. 

MT: Is psilocybin illegal? 

TM: Yes, it's a Schedule One drug. It was placed on the list at the 
same time as LSD, even though the issue was presented to the public in 
terms of LSD being made illegal. Actually, at that time a number of com- 
pounds were made illegal, yet there was never any public debate. All 
psychedelics were viewed the same way, and LSD was used as the mod- 
el. Actually, these compounds vary widely. There is a spectrum of 
psychedelic effects, and certain compounds trigger some of them. But, 
yes, psilocybin is illegal. 

MT: Are the mushrooms illegal? 

TM: The mushrooms also are illegal, as they contain psilocybin. 

MT: You recall Andy Weil saying that he walked along a down- 
town Seattle residential street picking up psilocybin mushrooms from 
the front yards of residential homes. 

TM: English law took the view that it was preposterous to try to 
outlaw a naturally occurring plant. They took the position that only the 
chemical was illegal, which I think is a very wise position. But I notice 
that Canada recently chose the American interpretation over the British 

MT: The kind of knowledge and the kind of information you're 
putting forward is not generally available. It's not the kind of information 
and knowledge that one would find in the typical academic anthropolo- 



Somehow it's outside of the cultural institutional entities. Number one, 
why do you think that is the case? Of course there's a logical answer to 
that one, but what do you see as the future of this kind of information 
and knowledge? 

TM: I think in a sense it signals the rebirth of the institution of 
shamanism in the context of modern society. Anthropologists have al- 
ways made the point about shamans that they were very important so- 
cial catalysts in their groups, but they were always peripheral to 
them— peripheral to the political power and, actually, usually physically 
peripheral, living some distance from the villages. I think the electronic 
shaman — the person who pursues the exploration of these spaces — 
exists to return to tell the rest of us about it. 

Hopefully we are now coming into a period of maturity as a 
species. We can no longer have forbidden areas of the human mind or 
mindless cultural machinery. We have taken upon ourselves the acquisi- 
tion of so much power that we must now understand what we are. We 
cannot travel much further with definitions of humanity inherited from 
the Judeo-Christian tradition. We need to truly explore the problem of 
-—nousness, because as human beings gain power they are becoming 
defining factor on the planet. The questions that loom are, "Is man 
'?" and then, if the answer is yes, "What is man good for?" 

The shamans will point the way because they are visionaries, po- 
cultural architects, forecasters — all these roles that we understand in 
"re conventional terms rolled into one and raised to the nth power, 
ney are cultural models for the rest of us. It has always been true that 
the shaman has access to a superhuman dimension and a superhuman 
condition and thereby affirms the potential for transcendence in all peo- 
le. The shaman is an exemplar, if you will, and I see the new attention 
~ t's being given to these things signaling a sense on the part of society 
•at we need to return to these models. This is why, for instance, in the 
Star Wars phenomenon Skywalker, the name of a major character, is a 
direct translation of the word "shaman" out of the Tungusic, which is 
"here Siberian shamanism comes from. So these heroes that are being 
"tilled in the heart of the culture are shamanic heroes; they control a 
force that is bigger than everybody and holds the galaxy together; this is 
true, as a matter of fact. As we explore how true this is, the limitations of 
our previous worldview will be exposed for all to see. I think it was 
J- B. S. Haldane who said, "The world may not only be stranger than we 
suppose, it may be stranger than we can suppose." 

MT: I think that the character Yoda is a shamanic-type character. 


MT: As we talk about shamans and shamanism, again that 
brings up cross-cultural currents. Do you see shamanism taking on a 
new form? 

TM: I believe, along with Gordon Wasson and others, but in dis- 
tinction to Mircea Eliade, who is a major writer on shamanism, that it is 
hallucinogenic shamanism that is primary. Where sha manic techniques 
are used to the exclusion of hallucinogenic plant ingestion, the shaman- 
ism tends to be vitiated; it is more like a ritual enactment of what real 
shamanism is. The shamanism that is coming to be is coming to be with- 
in people in our culture who feel comfortable with psychedelic plants 
and who, by going into those spaces and then returning with works of 
art or poetic accounts or scientific ideas, are actually changing the face of 
the culture. 

1 connect the psychedelic dimension to the dimension of inspira- 
tion and dream, and I think history has always progressed by the bub- 
bling up of ideas from these nether dimensions into the minds of 
receptive men and women. It is simply that now, with the hallucino- 
gens, we actually have a tool to push the button. We are no longer de- 
pendent upon whatever factors previously controlled the ingression of 
novelty into human history. We have taken that function to ourselves, 
and this will intensify and accelerate the cultural crisis toward its ulti- 
mate resolution. 

MT: So as we continue to move toward the further exploration 
of these spaces, we can expect social change as a result of personal 

TM: Tremendous social change. In fact, what is happening is a 
tendency toward what I call turning the body inside out. Through our 
media and cybernetics, we are actually approaching the point where 
consciousness can be experienced in a state of disconnection from the 
body. We have changed. We are no longer bipedal monkeys. We are in- 
stead a kind of cybernetic coral reef of organic components and inorgan- 
ic technological components. We have become a force that takes 
unorganized raw material and excretes technical objects; we have tran- 
scended the normal definitions of humans. We are like an enormous col- 
lective organism with our data banks, our forecasting agencies, and our 
computer networks, and the many levels at which we are connected into 
the universe. Our self-image is changing; the monkey has been all but 
left behind and, shortly, will be left behind. 

Again, I take the flying saucer to be an image of the future state 
of humanity. It is a kind of millenarian transformation of the human 



where the soul is exteriorized as the apotheosis of technology. It is that 
eschatological event that is casting enormous shadows backward 
through time over the historical landscape. That is the siren singing at 
the end of time, calling all humanity across the last hundred millennia 
toward it. Calling us out of the trees and into history, and through this 
series of multileveled cultural transitions to the point where the thing 
within the monkeys — the creature of pure language and pure imagina- 
tion whose aspirations are entirely titanic in terms of self-transformation — 
that thing is now emerging, and it will emerge as humanity leaves the 
planet. It's not something quantized and clearly defined. Nevertheless, it 
is what the next fifty or so years will be about At the end of it, the species 

MT: Are we talking about another version of the Christian death, 
resurrection, ascension into heaven? 

TM: Except that it is coming into history. What is happening is 
that the paradise promised the soul is actually going to enter into histo- 
ry. Technological man took the apocalyptic aspirations of Christianity so 
seriously that we are going to realize them. It has become the guiding 
image of what we want to be. I'm reminded of the poem by William 
Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium," where he speaks of the artifice of 
eternity and says: 

Once out of nature I shall never take 

My bodily form from any natural thing, 

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make 

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling 

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; 

Or set upon a golden bough to sing 

To lords and ladies of Byzantium 

Of what is past, or passing, or to come. 

This is the image of the human body become an indestructible cybernet- 
ic object; yet within that indestructible cybernetic object there is a holo- 
graphic transform of the body that is released into the dream. It is an 
image of the human transformed and released into a hyperspace of in- 
formation, where one is a thing of eternal circuitry but one appears to be 
walking along an unspoiled beach in Paradise. We are going to find the 
power to realize our deepest cultural aspirations. This is why we must 
find out what our deepest cultural aspirations are. 



MT: What about the idea that these spaces that we've been talk- 
ing about— that you've been illuminating— are spaces that can be 
achieved without the use of psychedelics? 

TM: I scoured India, and my humble, personal opinion is that it 
is highly unlikely. I've always approached people of spiritual accom- 
plishment with the question "What can you show me?" Wise-old-man 
wisdom is one thing, but the hallucinogen-using shaman of the Amazon 
seems to be able to go far beyond that. There may be physical techniques 
for duplicating this, but the efficacy and the dependability of the hallu- 
cinogens seems to me to make them the obvious choice. Only a series of 
cultural taboos would cause one to engineer around hallucinogenic 
shamanism. It is the obvious path to transcendence. People must face the 
fact that, at one level, we are chemical machines. That doesn't mean we 
are that at every level, but it does mean that there is a chemical level 
where we can intervene to change the pictures that are coming in and 
going out at higher levels. 

MT: You're not suggesting that people should do this by them- 

TM: Take hallucinogens? Well, I don't know about taking them 
by themselves— probably not, although I always prefer to. What I am 
suggesting is that hallucinogens be taken in a situation of minimum sen- 
sory input. Lying down in darkness with eyes closed cannot be sur- 
passed. People want music; they want to walk around in nature and all 
these things. Nature and music are beautiful in their own right; they are 
the adumbrations of the psychedelic experience that we deal with in or- 
dinary reality. In confrontation with the deep psychedelic experience 
these things are hardly more than impediments. Very interesting things 
are happening in the utter blackness behind your eyelids while lying 
still in silent darkness, and that is where the mystery comes from and 
goes to. 

MT: My question had to do with use or nonuse of a guide. 

TM: Oh, I don't think people should do this without a guide un- 
less they feel confident from long experience that they don't need a 

MT: Terence, it's been fascinating. I think we could probably go 
on for another few hours if we had time. 



TM: It's a pleasure to talk with you about this. I like to have 
these ideas get out. I think it's important that we discuss all this in a way 
that is only now becoming possible because of the situation in the 1960s. 
Now we need to shed all that and look back and look forward and try to 
make a mature judgment for our culture based on the facts of the matter. 


TM: Thank you. 

The Voynich Manuscript 

THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT has been called the most 
mysterious manuscript in the world. Dating at least to 
1586, the manuscript is written in a language of which no 
other example is known to exist. It is an alphabetic script, 
but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nine- 
teen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any rela- 
tionship to any English or European letter system. The 
manuscript is small, seven by ten inches, but thick, nearly 
170 pages. It is closely written in a free-running hand and copiously il- 
lustrated with bizarre line drawings that have been water-colored: 
drawings of plants, drawings of little naked ladies appearing to take 
showers in a strange system of plumbing (variously identified as organs 
of the body or a primitive set of fountains), and astrological drawings— 
or what have been interpreted as astrological drawings. Since the 
Voynich Manuscript is at the Beinecke Rare Book Room at Yale, it is ac- 
cessible to any serious scholar. The Most Mysterious Manuscript, edited by 
Robert Brumbaugh, reproduces a number of the folios from the 
manuscript that readily convey the weirdness of it all. It is quite un- 
earthly and does not fit into the context of late medieval alchemical 
manuscripts or late medieval manuscripts of any other kind. 

The known facts about the manuscript are few. Historically, it 
first appears in 1586 at the court of Rudolph II of Bohemia, who was one 
of the most eccentric European monarchs of that or any other period. 
Rudolph collected dwarfs and had a regiment of giants in his army. He 

Portions of this article appeared as a book review in Gnosis, no. 7, spring 1988. 


was surrounded by astrologers, and he was fascinated by games and 
codes and music. He was typical of the occult-oriented, Protestant noble- 
men of this period and epitomized the liberated northern European 
prince. He was a patron of alchemy and supported the printing of al- 
chemical literature. The Rosicrucian conspiracy (about which I will say 
; later) was being quietly fomented during this same period. 
To Rudolph's court came an unknown person who sold this 
- ; pt to the king for three hundred gold ducats, which, translated 
modern monetary units, is about fourteen thousand dollars. This is 
an astonishing amount of money to have paid for a manuscript at that 
time, which indicates that the Emperor must have been highly im- 
pressed by it. Accompanying the manuscript was a letter that stated that 
it was the work of the Englishman Roger Bacon, who flourished in the 
thirteenth century and who was a noted pre-Copernican astronomer. 

Prague, where Emperor Rudolph held his court, was a hotbed of 
-ts who esteemed the reputation of Roger Bacon. Only two years 
fore the appearance of the Voynich Manuscript, John Dee, the great 
English navigator, astrologer, magician, intelligence agent, and occultist 
had lectured in Prague on Bacon. John Dee had an unexpectedly long 
stay in Prague because his companion, Edward Kelley, had publicly 
claimed to be able to perform the alchemical opus, and the emperor 
more or less placed the pair under house arrest and asked them to per- 
form the opus for him as a favor for his generous patronage. When they 
were unable to produce, Dee was able to talk his way out of it since it 
was Kelley who had made the major claims. Kelley was detained and ac- 
tually died when the slate roofing on a high parapet of the castle slid un- 
derneath his feet one moonlit night during a frantic bid for freedom, 
making him one of alchemy's rare martyrs. I shall demonstrate directly 
why the relationship between Dee, Kelley, and Rudolph has direct bear- 
ing on the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript, for it is my opinion that 
Dee was involved in its sale. 

Today the Voynich Manuscript is still accompanied by the letter 
that attributes it to Roger Bacon. Rudolph's best astrologers and cryp- 
tographers could make nothing out of the manuscript. It entered a vast 
collection of weird artifacts and curiosities that Rudolph had gathered 
together from all over the world that were dispersed to diverse people 
after his death. The Voynich Manuscript, because it contained botanical il- 
lustrations, passed to his botanist, a man named Marceci. He kept it for 
twenty years; then it passed to an unnamed party who had it for an- 
other twenty years, bringing its history up to the 1620s. It then passed to 
Athanasius Kircher, who was one of the great polymaths of the mid- 
~venteenth century. He was a Catholic intellectual and alchemist, and 
first to systematically study artificial languages. We know of letters 



of his to various people asking about the Voynich Manuscript, written be- 
fore he obtained it. He was even sent small portions of it, reproduced, 
that he struggled over. But once he actually had the manuscript in his 
possession, his diaries are silent about it. Five years after he acquired it 
he published A Universal Study of Artificial Languages, which nowhere 
mentions the Voynich Manuscript. 

Kircher decided to become a Jesuit in about 1660 and had to give 
away all of his worldly goods. He gave his library to a Jesuit seminary 
south of Rome, and among his books was the Voynich Manuscript. It sat 
on a shelf in the seminary for over 250 years, until Alfred Voynich, a 
New York rare book dealer, bought the entire library on a trip to Europe 
in 1912. When Voynich got the library back to New York and sorted 
through it, he found among all the easily catalogued late-Renaissance 
Italian theological material a peculiar, totally anomalous book. Even as 
late as the period from which we have the first historical record of the 
Voynich Manuscript, the 1580s, the store of images in the European mind 
was very limited. There were only ten or fifteen herbals in circulation 
among the educated people of Europe at that time, and none of the 
Voynich images can be directly traced to any of these previously printed 
or circulated sources. Yet the biological sections of the Voynich 
Manuscript contain over 120 drawings of plants. Likewise, the script it- 
self has no antecedents, and it spawned no imitators. Codes from the 
early sixteenth century onward in Europe were all derived from The 

who wrote on the encipherment of secret messages. He had a limited 
number of methods, and no military, alchemical, religious, or political 
code was composed by any other means throughout a period that lasted 
well into the seventeenth century. Yet the Voynich Manuscript does not 
appear to have any relationship to the codes derivative of Johannes 
Trethemius, Bishop of Sponheim. 

I shall now offer an explanation of why I think that John Dee is the 
obvious candidate for being the purveyor, if not the author, of the 
Voynich Manuscript. First of all, Trethemius's book, The Stenographica, 
didn't circulate as a printed book until the 1580s, but it circulated in 
manuscript from about 1530 onward. When Dee visited the continent as a 
fairly young man, he recorded in his diary that he spent three days hand- 
copying the relevant chapters of a manuscript copy of The Stenographica 
that he was shown in Paris, so from very early in his intellectual life he 
was in possession of the Trethemian code-making machinery. 

The next important event in his life with regard to the Voynich 
Manuscript, and one of the most puzzling events in the whole history of 
science, took place on an afternoon in July 1582. While in his study at 
Mortlake, John Dee was distracted by a brilliant light outside his win- 


dow and stepped outside to receive from a creature he described as the 
Angei Gabriel a polished lens of New World obsidian, which he de- 
scribed in his diary thenceforward as "the Shew Stone." He was able, by 
meditating on this stone, to induce visions and dialogues with spirits, 
but this ability seemed to fade in the months after he received the stone 
until a strange personage came into his life in the spring of 1584. This 
was Edward Kelley. 

Kelley was a much younger man than Dee, and Dee was married 
to a much younger woman, Ann. Kelley was of the rascal type; in one 
account, he is even described as being earless, having had his ears re- 
moved for some petty crime in the provinces. He arrived at Dee's place 
in Mortlake, pop-eyed and breathless, with a wild story about how he 
had fallen asleep in a ransacked tomb in a monastery in Wales. When he 
awakened, he found beneath him in the tomb a vial of red powder that 
was the transformative elixir, and a book in an undecipherable language 
that he called the Gospel of St. Dunstable. Kelley claimed that he had been 
told in the village nearby that this book was enciphered Welsh. We actu- 
ally hear no more in anybody's diaries of the Gospel of St. Dunstable; 
however, Arthur Dee, the son of John Dee, writing some thirty years lat- 
and reminiscing about his father, said that from the time John Dee 
Kelley he spent a great deal of time trying to unravel a book "cov- 
ered all over with hieroglyphiks." Perhaps this is the Gospel of St. 
Dunstable, and perhaps the Gospel of St. Dunstable and the Voynich 
Manuscript are one and the same. 

In any case, Kelley's entree to Dee was the undecipherable 
manuscript and the alchemical potion. Kelley quickly learned from his 
conversations with Dee the story of the Shew Stone, and together they 
set up a seance during which Kelley proved himself to be a very adept 
scryer of the stone. From the very first instance, he could describe vast 
theatrical undertakings and speak all the parts of the characters. (The 
Shew Stone is in the British Museum, where one can see it today.) 

John Dee's meeting with Edward Kelley began a new period in 
ee's diaries. They were published in 1658 by Meric Casaubon as A True 
d Faithful Relation, etc. In the series of entries that span the next ten 
ars, there are recorded hundreds of spirit conversations, including the 
elivery to Dee and Kelley of an angelic language called Enochian, com- 
of non-English letters, but which computer analysis has recently 
own to have a curious grammatical relationship to English. Over four 
thousand words are known in Enochian, transmitted by the ghostly ap- 
paritions that Kelley channeled to Dee. Some of the messages were theo- 
logical or political in nature and came to the two as they traveled about 
Europe visiting such places as the court of Rudolph. They were respon- 
sible for spreading the fame of the alchemist Roger Bacon, which laid the 



public relations groundwork for sale of the Voynich Manuscript at a high 

The manuscript, which would have been written in the thirteenth 
century if it were by Roger Bacon, definitely shows all the physical signs 
of a sixteenth-century origin. I estimate it was written sometime around 
1540, indicating that Kelley obtained it somewhere. If Kelley wrote it 
himself, it would have to have been done later — as late as the early 
1580s. If Dee actually wrote it, then it should be possible to determine 
this by comparing it to his other writings. The several groups that have 
studied the Voynich Manuscript have not been familiar with the large 
amounts of encrypted material in John Dee's diaries. There are over 
ninety-two pages of strings of numbers and letters. If the method of en- 
cryption utilized by Dee could be related in some way to the encoding of 
the Voynich material, the problem of its authorship would be solved. 

During the height of his creativity. Dee wrote a strange book 
called The Hieroglyphic Monad (Monas Hieroglyphicam), containing thirty- 
six quasi-geometric theorems. This book hints at some kind of mystical 
doctrine yet remains utterly obscure. In the early 1580s it circulated in 
manuscript form, and it was printed a few years later. 

In 1604, and again in 1608, the primary Rosicrucian documents, 
The Tama and The Confessio, were anonymously circulated in Europe. 
They came out of nowhere, broadsheets distributed in the middle of the 
night from street corners. They said, "We are a secret society and who 
we are ye may not know, but if you're ready you'll be contacted and 
asked to join." Robert Fludd, the heir of the Dee tradition in English oc- 
cultism and science, practically put out an advertisement saying, "If I 
am not good enough, nobody's good enough. Why haven't you people 
contacted me?" The fact is that the Rosicrucians, meaning the authors of 
The Fama and The Confessio, never contacted anybody. Their claim was 
basically fraudulent: that the tomb of Christian Rosenkrantz, a great 
knight who had gone on the last Crusade in the fourteenth century, had 
been discovered. This was rather like harking back to Roger Bacon, in- 
voking a mythical personage who had lived two centuries previously. 
Inside the tomb there were said to have been alchemical books with a 
quasi-political overtone, definitely favoring the court of Frederick V, the 
Elector Palatine. All this was disseminated as gospel in a kind of alchem- 
ical Protestant revival. Curiously, these texts, The Fama and The Confessio, 
had many doctrinal similarities to Dee's Hieroglyphic Monad, so that it 
appears that Dee's earlier work was used as the model for the 
Rosicrucian broadsheets by their authors. Though these authors were 
unnamed, I suspect the Bohemian alchemist Johannes Andrea. Andrea 
and fellow alchemist Michael Maier were old enough to have been in- 
volved in Dee's earlier visits to Prague and to have been at the peak of 



their intellectual powers when the episode of the Winter King and 
Queen occurred in 1620 and briefly brought Frederick the Elector and 
his wife to Prague as alchemical rulers. 

Dee died an old and broken-hearted man under the reign of 
James I in 1608, many years after the sale of the Voynich Manuscript. Dee 
had been the court astrologer of Elizabeth, a friend of Sir Philip Sidney, 
and the most educated man in England until James came to power. 
James had a horror of the whole magical side of the Elizabethan court. 
He didn't want astrologers around him. He was a rationalist, and his 
anti-Catholicism extended to a mistrust of the entire occult tradition. 

Previously I mentioned that when Rudolph died and his court fell 
> disarray, the Voynich Manuscript passed to his botanist. The old em- 
peror was dying at a great age, and was unquestionably mad as a 
iamned hatter. Meanwhile, to the west of Prague, in Heidelberg, 
ederick the Elector wed Elizabeth, the daughter of Dee's nemesis, 
mes I of England. Frederick was everything a Protestant alchemical 
prince could hope to be: young, brilliant, scheming, and totally in com- 
mand of his lords. Frederick took the king's decision to give his daugh- 
ter's hand in marriage as tacit approval for Frederick's plan to establish 
a Protestant alchemical kingdom in central Europe. Actually, James — be- 
ing the plotting conservative that he was — had a far more Machiavellian 
purpose in wedding his daughter to Frederick. He also had it in his 
mind to wed one of his sons to a Spanish Catholic Hapsburg princess 
and was trying to steer a neutral course. When he realized that Frederick 
and Elizabeth had gone off to their court in Heidelberg to patronize al- 
chemists and astrologers like Michael Maier, Gerhart Dorn, and 
Johannes Andrea, James was much alarmed, but by that time it was too 
late to reverse his decision and he realized that Frederick was a wild 
card. When Rudolph finally did die, the princes of the Northern League 
gathered to choose his successor by secret ballot. Frederick won, and so 
in the late fall of 1619 he and Elizabeth transferred their court to Prague 
and ruled for one winter, until May of 1620. To provide historical con- 
text, recall that the Mayflower was setting sail that same year. By May, 
the Hapsburgs had mounted an army and were able to crush the Winter 

In a sense, that incident can be seen as the opening shot of the 
Thirty Years' War. One of the young French soldiers in the Hapsburg 
army laying siege to the city was the nineteen-year-old Rene Descartes, 
who, under the influence of a dream he would have only a few months 
later, would mature into the great proponent of modern French materi- 
alism. Michael Maier, one of the last great synthesizers of the late me- 
dieval alchemical vision, died in the siege of the city. Frederick was 
killed and Elizabeth fled into exile in the Hague for many years. The 



Voynich Manuscript was forgotten. Modern times overtook Europe, and 
the secret of the manuscript drifted further and further into the past. 

The hope of establishing an alchemical political union in Central 
Europe was, in the context of what followed (the Thirty Years' War and 
modem times), a channel where the river of history chose not to run. It 
was a path not taken, but had things turned out differently, for instance 
had the king of England been behind the union wholeheartedly, events 
might have unraveled somewhat differently. 

My reconstruction of the unknown part of the story is this: 
When Dee and Kelley were entertaining Emperor Rudolph with 
tales of the alchemical prowess of Roger Bacon, they had the Voynich 
Manuscript in mind. Either they wrote it or they had it with them. If they 
had it with them, the story becomes more interesting, because then per- 
haps they are not its authors. If they are its authors, then it merely re- 
veals the grammatical deep structure of the deranged minds of two 
Elizabethan magicians and would explain to some degree why it has de- 
fied decipherment. If Dee and Kelley didn't write it, if they only had it in 
their possession, then the mystery continues. Where did they get it and 
what was it? 

It is true that Dee was under the patronage of the Earl of 
Northumberland, who, when Henry VIII broke with Rome, sacked 
English monasteries that had large repositories of Roger Bacon materi- 
al. Dee's library at Mortlake was known to have fifty-three Baconian 
manuscripts, of which only forty-one have survived into modern times. 
They now reside at the Bodleian Library at Oxford and at the British 
Museum. In the truly compendious A True And Faithful Relation, etc., 
Dee recorded the day-by-day seances with spirits as he and Kelley trav- 
eled all over Europe. In the very month that the emperor paid the three 
hundred gold ducats for a manuscript, Dee recorded in his diary that he 
and Kelley received three hundred gold ducats from a mysterious 

Some biographers have taken the position that Dee didn't believe 
in magic at all, and that he only posed as an occultist to conceal the fact 
that he was an intelligence agent for the British crown. According to this 
interpretation, he was visiting the courts of Europe as an astrologer, 
necromancer, and alchemist, while actually encrypting very succinct 
military, strategic, and diplomatic information into letters, which he 
then sent home. Because he could cast the finest horoscope in Europe, he 
had an entree into the lives of nobility. Doubtless the truth lies some- 
where in between. He was an agent of the British crown, but he was also 
the finest flower of the medieval mind. He was used by Shakespeare as 
the model for Prospero in The Tempest, and was the model for Dr. 
Fausrus in Christopher Marlowe's play of the same name. 



Many careers have floundered on the basis of alleged decipher- 
ments of the Voynich Manuscript. Some scholars have come forward with 
very bold claims. In the 1920s, William Romaine Newbold, a classics 
scholar, a medievalist, and by all accounts a very brilliant man, an- 
nounced that he had a complete decipherment of the Voynich 
Manuscript. He claimed that the key was tiny shorthand strokes that 
were components of each letter in the manuscript, and he maintained 
that by staring through a magnifying loupe one could see that, encoded 
into each character, were the distorted remains of a Roman shorthand 
system that had been lost for six hundred years. He produced astonish- 
ing decipherments of Roger Bacon-related material. His decoded pas- 
sages dealt with student uprisings at Oxford at Christmastime in 1291, 
when riots between the Black Friars and the town would not have been 
uncommon. The problem with all of this was that no one else could ex- 
tract the same plaintext using Professor Newbold's method. It involved 
so many choices from pools of letters at every given point along the way 
that one could demonstrate that hundreds of different messages could 
be extracted from the same passages. Newbold died a broken man, dis- 
graced, his career shattered. He had gone too far, and the Voynich 
Manuscript had claimed its first victim. 

The next person to propose a decipherment of the Voynich 
Manuscript was Robert S. Brumbaugh, also of Yale University, and his 
decipherment is, in some ways, almost as puzzling as the encryption. He 
would have us believe that the Voynich Manuscript says things like "liq- 
uid Cerian matter, liquid matter, plus Cerian Sicilian, plus Cerian salt 
European Swedish Sicilian plus Cerian, plus Russian Asian Sicilian salt, 
liquid liquid Asian Italian Cerian salt, liquid Sicilian Italian plus Sicilian, 
plus salt," and so on. When his method was examined by others at- 
tempting to reproduce the same plaintext, they got nowhere, and his ef- 
t has not been taken seriously. 

Another effort at decipherment, which is minor, perhaps, in com- 
to the other two, but which provides an interesting anecdote, 
; by a man named Strong at the University of California at San Diego. 
le claimed decipherment of certain of the labels of the Voynich 
Manuscript's illustrations. When Paul Lee formed a working group to 
look into the Manuscript, Dr. Strong was one of the people they wanted 
to interview, and a member of the group who is a friend of mine, Ralph 
Abraham, a mathematician at the University of California at Santa Cruz, 
had photostats made of certain folios of the Voynich Manuscript. He sent 
these folios along with very detailed letters to Strong with questions 
such as, "It is alleged that on folio 9B you translated a certain word as 
'uterus.' Here is a photostat of folio 9B; please circle the word you trans- 
lated." Strong's secretary wrote Ralph back saying that Strong was very 



old, in his nineties, and he didn't feel he could compose a letter to ad- 
dress all these questions, but that if Ralph would come to San Diego he 
would satisfy him completely. That was a Thursday. Ralph got a reser- 
vation to fly down on the following Monday. Sunday night the secretary 
called to say that Dr. Strong had died of a heart attack that evening. The 
Voynich Manuscript has bedeviled people's careers, and people who have 
claimed to understand it have died with the secret untransmitted to the 
rest of us. 

The United States government intelligence community has spent 
a fair bit of time looking into the Voynich Manuscript, simply because it is 
unheard of that a sixteenth-century manuscript should resist decipher- 
ment by modern methods. The single most interesting writing about the 
Voynich Manuscript is a Department of Commerce publication called The 
Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma, by Mary D'Empirio. It is a colla- 
tion of everything known about the manuscript, commissioned by the 
United States government. 

Many interesting facts have been established, and there is hope 
that the manuscript may eventually be deciphered. Computer analysis 
of the handwriting shows that two hands are involved. Does this mean 
it was written by Dee and Kelley? If so, can we get a better idea of their 
role in its creation by comparing the handwriting in the manuscript with 
that of Dee and Kelley? 

D'Empirio discusses many magical alphabets, many different 
forms of shorthand and specialized note-keeping scripts that were cur- 
rent in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. None of them look particu- 
larly like the Voynich script. Ralph Abraham made a suggestion that the 
Voynich script had some relation to early Brahmanic number systems. 
He thought perhaps that it was a string of numbers that would have to 
be decoded and the resulting string further deciphered to extract the lit- 
eral message. 

One possibility is that we modems simply overrate the sophisti- 
cation of our code-breaking machinery. Perhaps there are simple ways 
of encoding material that simply have not occurred to the CIA, and 
when the Voynich code is finally broken, the solution will prove trivial, 
but unexpected in some way. For instance, Ralph made the suggestion 
to me that grids with holes cut in them might have been used. When 
such a grid was laid over a page, it separated the message parts of the 
text from the nonsensical noise. 

If the grid changes from page to page and is completely irrational 
in the way that it changes, then no computer program imaginable could 
separate the plaintext from the noise. A recursive formula could not de- 
duce an ever-changing variable based on whim, and this would pre- 
clude any machine-oriented effort to decipher the manuscript. This grid 
method is well known and represents a standard method of hiding a 



message, embedding it in great amounts of garbled material. It would 
have appealed to the alchemical imagination of Dee or Kelley or any of 
their educated occult contemporaries. If this notion is the key, it may 
mean that somewhere there exist either the grids or the instructions for 
building them. 

In the summation of her book, D'Empirio suggests ideas for fur- 
ther research. The Voynich Manuscript has never been physically ana- 
lyzed, which would settle once and for all at least the century of its 
origin. The libraries of the world should be searched for other examples 
of Voynich script. After all, are we really sure that there's no other extant 
example of this strange writing? Computer analysis, the approach of the 
Santa Cruz group, could settle on a standard alphabet for the 
manuscript and then catalog every character, the number of times it oc- 
curs, and in what combinations it occurs with other characters. From 
this data a preliminary grammar might be deduced. 

None of the illustrations have ever been satisfactorily interpreted. 
What are called the astrological illustrations are only nominally astro- 
logical. They seem to have stars and circles in them, but otherwise they 
are not particularly referent to the sky. The so-called pharmaceutical sec- 
tion, which depicts little canisters and strange little naked women 
bathing in curious, convoluted plumbing, could be anything — an ob- 
scure form of central German hydrotherapy, or the doodlings of a de- 
ranged imagination. When you only have one of something, it is quite 
difficult to place it in the correct context of cultural history, especially 
since there was a lot of secrecy in this period, faking of manuscripts and 
spurious attributions, use of secret cover languages, communication in 
secret codes, plotting of secret societies. 

If my analysis of the Voynich Manuscript as the product of Dee 
and Kelley has seemed too facile, let me assure my reader that it is, and 
that not all the facts are covered by this theory. What fascinates me most 
about the Voynich Manuscript, above and beyond the historical puzzle 
and above and beyond how interesting it would be to know what it ac- 
tually says, is the idea of an unreadable book. It is a kind of Borgesian 
concept that there must be, somewhere, an unreadable book, and per- 
haps this is it. The unreadable book hints at the idea that the world is in- 
formation. We have cognizance of the world by ordering all the 
information we come upon in relation to information that we have al- 
ready accumulated — through patterns. An unreadable book in a non- 
English script, with no dictionary attached, is very puzzling. We become 
like linguistic oysters, we secrete around it, we encyst it into our meta- 
physic. But we don't know what it says, which always carries with it the 
possibility that it says something that would unhinge our conceptions of 
things or that its real message is its unreadability. It points to the 
Otherness of the nature of information, and is what is called in struc- 



turalism a "limit text." Certainly the Voynich Manuscript is the limit text 
of Western occultism. It is truly an occult book — one that no one can 
read. It is a making literal of the mythical book in H. P. Lovecraft's work 
The Necronomicon, the writings of the mad Arab, Alhazrad; in fact, Colin 
Wilson, in his book The Philosopher's Stone, connects the Voynich 
Manuscript to The Necronomicon and the Shew Stone used for scraying by 
Dee with the Philosopher's Stone. 


And there the matter rested until 1987, and might have rested for- 
ever but for the questing curiosity of one man. Enter Dr. Leo Levitov, 
author of Solution of the Voynich Manuscript; a man who claims a com- 
plete understanding of the dynamics of Voynich and translation of the 
manuscript. He gives us the good news in his subtitle: A Liturgical 
Manual for the Endura Rite of the Cathari Heresy, The Cult oflsis. Levitov's 
thesis is that the Voynich is nothing less than the only surviving primary 
document of the Great Heresy that arose in Italy and flourished in 
Languedoc until ruthlessly exterminated by the Albigensian Crusade in 
the 1230s. Very little is known about the beliefs of the Cathante faith, 
and all the knowledge we do have of it is secondhand, obtained from the 
records of the Inquisition, whose task was the destruction of Cathar soci- 
ety. Levitov's translation, if substantiated, would throw new light on the 
puzzling rise and extermination of the greatest heretical challenge that 
the Roman church ever faced. 

There are a number of problems with Levitov's notions, but there 
are also triumphs. He makes several startling claims that he supports 
very well. The little women in the baths who puzzled so many are for 
Levitov a Cathar sacrament, the Endura, "or death by venesection [cut- 
ting a vein] in order to bleed to death in a warm bath." The plant draw- 
ings that refused to resolve themselves into botanically identifiable 
species are no problem for Levitov: "Actually, there is not a single so- 
called botanical illustration that does not contain some Cathari symbol or 
Isis' symbol." The astrological drawings are likewise easy to deal with: 
"The innumerable stars are representative of the stars in Isis' mantle." 

Levitov's strong hand is translation. He asserts that the reason it 
has been so difficult to decipher the Voynich Manuscript is that it is not 
encrypted at all, but merely written in a special script, and is "an adapta- 
tion of a polyglot oral tongue into a literary language which would be 
understandable to people who did not understand Latin and to whom 
this language could be read." Specifically, a highly polyglot form of me- 
dieval Flemish with a large number of Old French and Old High 
German loan words. Good. So now we know. 



Where there is danger for Levitov is in the contents of the trans- 
lated material. Levitov freely admits that he is convinced from his 
translation that Catharism is a religion of Isis, a religion of the great 
idess. Apparently he is alone in this belief, although A. E. Waite says 
in his discussion of the Cathars and The Holy Grail (1961), "The Grail 
My thos is . . . like the Veil of Isis, which no man can raise rather than tol- 
erate the suggestion that these nightmare faiths are behind it." Save for 
Waite's lucky turn of phrase, no commentator, ancient or modern, has 
ever breathed a word concerning Isis in connection with the Cathars. At 
one point the Cathars became a focus of latter-day occultists, but not 
their literature mentioned Isis. 
Levitov is almost casual in his presentation of his work, question- 
al one point whether now that he has figured out how to translate 
manuscript, it is worth actually doing. "A complete translation of the 
more than 200 pages waits in the wings — a long, arduous and possibly 
ewarding task." For Levitov the problem seemed to be one of solving 
language problem, but larger problems are now raised if in fact the 
tich is to be seen as a primary source showing the Cathars to be not 
at all as we have come to think of them. Students of Gnosticism, pagan- 
ism, and the Goddess will all have to digest this new slant on the role of 
the Cathars. 

As for what the manuscript actually says, it is a gloomy and 
repetitive work, made partly so by Levitov's decision to present it in a 
rather raw state, as its sense requires scholarly interpretation. At its most 
the translation is quite interesting: 

The person who is knowledgeable about aid, knows there is only one 
way to treat agonizing pain. He treats each one by putting them through 
the Endura. It is the one way that helps Death. Not everyone knows how 
to assist the one with pain. The one who is with death, and does not die 
will have pain. But those who have such pain of death, need his help. He 
understands the need. He is also aware that the person who needs help 
does not know that he needs it. We all know that everyone of them needs 
help and each of us will be available to help. 

passage refers to the Cathar sacrament for the dying, a form of eu- 
sia in which pious Cathars were helped to die by specially trained 

Levitov mentions extensive personal research into the Cathar ma- 
terial, but cites none of it. I cannot tell if he was aware of H. J. Warner's 
The Albigensian Heresy or W. L. Wakefield's Heresy, Crusade and 
Inquisition in Southern France. He states that the Voynich Manuscript is the 
only primary Catharite document in existence. However, A. E. Waite in 



his Holy Grail mentions, "There is fortunately one fragmentary record of 
Albigensian belief which has survived. ... I refer to the Cathar Ritual of 
Lyons which is now well known having been published in 1898 by Mr. F. 
C. Conybeare." Waite goes on to mention that part of the Lyons Codex 
contains "certain prayers for the dying." The codex is in the langue d'oc. 
Does it resemble the Voynich material? We are not told. 

If Levitov is right, we moderns simply overrated the sophistica- 
tion of our code-breaking machinery and overlooked the possibility that 
the manuscript was not in code at all. 

Levitov fails to mention the physical manuscript. Yet it seems ob- 
vious that one of the first steps that should be taken would be to attempt 
to confirm the thirteenth-century origin date for the manuscript. If the 
manuscript was written before 1250, then it is older than was claimed by 
even the adherents of the Roger Bacon theory of its authorship. Surely it 
should be possible to determine whether the manuscript was written in 
the thirteenth or the sixteenth century! 

If it was a product of the thirteenth century, then my own efforts 
to see the hand of John Dee in its composition are immediately rendered 
futile, although it is still quite possible that Dee was involved in the 
manuscript's finding its way to Rudolph's court. Until Levitov, most 
scholars have been confident in placing the origin of the manuscript in 
the early fifteenth century. 

Therefore, Leo Levitov is to be congratulated. He has made a per- 
suasive case and remained modest doing it. Now we need to hear from 
the experts, the medievalists, linguists, and scholars of heresy, for it will 
be through the consensus and judgment of the community of scholars 
that Levitov's claim to have translated the world's most mysterious 
manuscript will stand or fall. 

Wasson's Literary Precursors 

THERE can be no doubt that the modern era of ethnomy- 
cology begins with the work of Gordon and Valentina 
Wasson. The late Mr. Wasson is the Abraham of the re- 
born awareness in Western civilization of the presence of 
the shamanically empowering mushroom. Yet, like all 
great innovative thinkers, the Wassons had their precur- 
sors. Before the Wassons there were those who had 
stumbled onto an awareness of the visionary potential of 
fungi. Their experiences, their findings, did not become a cause celebre 
or an academic discipline. Many simply chose to keep secret what they 
had discovered — a sensible response to Western society's long-stand- 
ing bias against these mushrooms, which was reinforced by frighten- 
ing reports of "mushroom intoxication" that never acknowledged 
anything salutary about the experience. A good example, set down in 
Science, September 18, 1914, is by A. E. Merrill of Yale University. 
Merrill described the hallucinogenic effects of an accidental ingestion 
of Panaeolus papilionaceus from Oxford County, Maine. Although the 
identification of the mushroom may have been in error, the effects de- 
scribed are very likely due to psilocybin. Robert Graves has offered a 
summary of the incident in his Food for Centaurs: 

Mr. W. gathered about a pound of panaeolus papilionaceus mushrooms, 
and fried them in butter for himself and his niece. The immediate effect 
was that both felt a bit tipsy, and soon their surroundings seemed to take 
on bright colours, in which a vivid green predominated. Next both expe- 

A shortened version of this essay first appeared in The Divine Mushroom Seeker, a 
festschrift for Gordon Wasson, edited by Tom Riedlinger, published by 
Dioscorides Press, 1990. 



rienced an irresistible impulse to run and jump, which they did hilari- 
ously, laughing almost to the point of hysteria at the., witty remarks they 

exchanged When they left the house to take a walk, they lost all sense 

of time — a long period seemed short and contrariwise; the same with dis- 
tances. . . . Wallpaper patterns appeared to creep and crawl about, 
though at first remaining two dimensional; then began to grow out to- 
ward him from the walls with uncanny motions. He looked at a bunch of 
large red roses, all of one kind, which lay on the table; and at another on 
a writing-desk. At once the room seemed to fill with roses of various red 

Feeling a sudden rush of blood to his head, he lay down. Then followed 
an illusion of countless hideous faces of every sort and extending in mul- 
titudes over endless distances, all grimacing at him rapidly and horribly, 
and coloured like fireworks— intense reds, purples, greens, and yellows. 
(I960, pp. 277-78) 

It would be difficult indeed for any voluntary user of hallucino- 
genic fungi to openly defend such effects as desirable, even for artistic 
inspiration. Instead, the inclination was for the mushroom cognoscente to 
keep silent. 

Yet some, it appears, found a way to safely publicize their person- 
al familiarity with psychoactive mushrooms, by disguising it as literary 
fiction. It is useful for us now, in the expanded intellectual arena that 
ethnomycology has created for itself, to examine those brave futurists of 
the past who anticipated what Gordon Wasson made explicit — that is, 
the presence of an awesome spiritual power resident in the visionary 
fungi, resident in psilocybin. 

The Wassons acknowledged a few of these "literary precursors" 
in Mushrooms, Russia and History. One was Lewis Carroll, whose 1865 
masterpiece Alice's Adventures in Wonderland includes an interesting sec- 
tion in which Alice eats pieces of a mushroom that causes her to alter- 
ly shrink and grow. The Wassons observed: 

All of Alice's subsequent distortions, softened by the loving irony of 
Lewis Carroll's imagination, retain the flavor of mushroomic hallucina- 
tions. Is there not something uncanny about the injection of this mush- 
room into Alice's story? What led the quiet Oxford don to hit on a device 
so felicitous, but at the same time sinister for the initiated readers, when 
he launched his maiden on her way? Did he dredge up this curious spec- 
imen of wondrous and even fearsome lore from some deep well of half- 
conscious folk-knowledge? (1957, pp. 194-195) 

The possibility that Carroll may have drawn on a personal experi- 



Wassons. Instead they proceed to develop convincingly their thesis that 
he got his inspiration from a different source: Mordecai Cooke's Plain 
and Easy Account of British Fungi (1862). This book included what the 
Wassons call "horrifying accounts of the amanita-eating Korjaks" of 
Siberia, who, upon eating this mushroom (Amanita muscaria), experi- 
enced "erroneous impressions of size and distance" among other psy- 
choactive effects. 

Interestingly, the Wassons ignored a significant piece of evidence 
that strengthens the case for their thesis considerably. It is found in the 
beginning of the scene in which Alice encounters the magical mush- 

There was a large mushroom growing near her, about the same height as 
herself; and, when she had looked under it, and on both sides of it, and 
behind it, it occurred to her that she might as well look and see what was 
on the top of it. 

She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the 
mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large blue caterpil- 
lar, that was sitting on the top, with its arms folded, quietly smoking a 
long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything 
else. (Carroll, 1960, p. 66) 

At the time the Wassons wrote Mushrooms, Russia and History 
they did not know of another, more relevant book by Mordecai Cooke, 
The Seven Sisters of Sleep (1852), which discussed seven major varieties 
of psychoactive substances. Included among them are both Amanita 
muscaria and cannabis, united by Carroll in one striking image of a 
hookah-smoking caterpillar perched on a mushroom with magical 

Also in Mushrooms, Russia and History, the Wassons acknowl- 
edged an interesting psychoactive mushroom story written by H. G. 
Wells in the late nineteenth century. "The Purple Pileus" tells the osten- 
sibly fictional tale of one Mr. Coombes, a meek, henpecked man who 
tries to kill himself by eating what he thinks to be a poisonous mush- 
room he finds in the forest. This mushroom, writes Wells, is "a peculiar- 
ly poisonous-looking purple: slimy, shiny, and emitting a sour odor" 
(1966, pp. 191-200). When broken by Coombes, its creamy white inner 
flesh changes "like magic in the space of ten seconds to a yellowish- 
green colour." Its taste is so pungent he almost spits it out. Within min- 
utes, his pulse starts to race and he feels a tingling sensation in his 
fingertips and toes. Then, before he can pick more purple pilei from a 
cluster he sees in the distance, Coombes is distracted by the mushroom's 
full effect. It induces a powerful change in his psychology for several 



hours, transforming him into a veritable lion. He rushes home, gaily 
singing and dancing, to confront his wife. His eyes as he enters the 
house are described as "unnaturally large and bright." After frightening 
off his wife's boyfriend and earning her lasting respect, he falls into a 
"deep and healing sleep." 

The Wassons make it clear, in their analysis of Wells's story, that 
Coombes had not eaten Amanita muscaria. Instead, they conclude. Wells 
had "filled out the necessities of a given plot by inventing the needed 
mushroom" (1957, pp. 50-51). They do not suggest, and apparently nev- 
er considered, that Wells's purple pileus may have been a thinly dis- 
ised Psilocybe mushroom. Like Psilocybe, it changes color when 
:!:en; has a markedly pungent taste when eaten fresh; often grows in 
clusters; quickly causes profound psychological and somatic effects, in- 
cluding dilation of the pupils; and induces deep sleep as an aftereffect. 
Also worth noting is that Wasson later, in 1978, made much of a psy- 
choactive fungus's purple color in The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret 
of the Mysteries, where he and coauthors Albert Hofmann and Carl A. P. 
Ruck argued convincingly that the sacramental drink imbibed at Eleusis 
contained the psychoactive fungus Claviceps purpurea. According to 
them, the purple color of the vestments of the priests who conducted the 
mysteries was identical to, and therefore emblematic of, this fungus, 
which grows throughout Europe. 

Could Wells have been personally familiar with the effects of 
Psilocybe, Claviceps, or some other species of hallucinogenic mushroom? 
Certain others of his stories seem to resonate with insights that may well 
have been derived from such experience. In "The Platter Story," for ex- 
ample, the title character finds himself transported to an eerie, hallucina- 
tory "Other-world" with a green sun, where the left and right side of his 
body are transposed. The green illumination is consistent with the previ- 
ously cited experience of Graves's Mr. W., whose "surroundings seemed 
to take on bright colors, in which a vivid green predominated" when he 
ate what were reported to be Panaeolus papilionaceus mushrooms. The 
transposition of Plattner's body reminds one of Alice's adventures 
"through the looking glass," since mirrors cause a similar transposition; 
modern theories are that hallucinogens shift emphasis from left- to right- 
brain thinking. Of equal interest, this "Other-world" coexists with ours 
and is accessible to us when our perceptions are enhanced. "It seems 
quite possible," wrote Wells, "that people with unusually keen eyesight 
may occasionally catch a glimpse of this strange Other-world about us" 
(1966, pp. 141-157). Another Wells story, "The New Accelerator," tells of 
a man who takes a drug that speeds his metabolism to such a degree 
that the world around him appears to be standing still. The impression 
of "stopping the world" is another effect that occurs with hallucinogens, 



know that blank nonexistence into which one drops when one has taken 
'gas,'" says his protagonist. "For an indefinite interval it was like that" 
(pp. 165-176). The possibility that Wells experienced psychoactive sub- 
stances is therefore compelling. 

An even stronger case can be made for Wells's contemporary 
John Uri Lloyd, who almost certainly had personal awareness of the 
psychoactivity of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. The first publica- 
tion date of his crypto-discourse on psilocybin, Etidorhpa, is 1895, nearly 
sixty years before the Wassons' first trip to Huatla. 

There is ample evidence, both circumstantial and prima facie, that 
Lloyd had experienced intoxication by psilocybin. Lloyd was a fin de 
siecle character, both a competent pharmaceutical chemist and a man 
with a passion for occult literature and speculation. According to Neal 
Wilgas, author of the introduction to both later editions of Etidorhpa 
(1976, 1978),* Lloyd was bom in West Bloomfield, New York, on April 19, 
1849 — the eldest son of a civil engineer and a descendant of Governor 
John Webster of Massachusetts. His family moved to Kentucky and then 
to Cincinnati. It was there, at the age of fifteen, that John Uri Lloyd began 
to learn the drug trade. He became the laboratory manager of a drug firm 
and later became a partner in the company. Lloyd and his brothers pub- 
lished a quarterly journal, Drugs and Medicines of North America. Later he 
was to participate in the establishment of the Lloyd Library of Botany 
and Pharmacy. To this day, in the field of phytochemistry, the preemi- 
nence of the journal Uoydia is a testament to the Lloyd brothers' passion 
for pharmacology and pharmacognosy. 

John Uri's brother, Curtis Gates Lloyd, is described by one source 
as one of the leading fungi botanists of his time. C. G. Lloyd made exten- 
sive collections of fungi in the Gulf states and the Deep South; there can 
be little doubt that if a mushroom species such as Stropharia cubensis was 
present then in those places with even a fraction of the frequency that it 
is encountered today, then Curtis Gates Lloyd would have collected and 
been familiar with it. Lloyd's specimen collections deposited with the 
Smithsonian number several thousands. Perhaps an examination of 
those collections would yield specimens of psychoactive fungi and field 
notes concerning them. 

In any case it seems clear that John Uri Lloyd's bizarre hollow- 
earth novel Etidorhpa was for him a kind of labyrinth at whose center he 
wished to place the apotheosis that he had personally experienced in his 

1 have listed all known editions of Lloyd's Etidorhpa in the bibliography to this book. The 
introduction by Neal Wilgas, titled "The Pharmaceutical Alchemist," that accompanies 
both later editions is scholarly and informative and discusses the psychedelic interests of 


own peregrinations in the realm of gigantic fungi. For forty-one pages 
(from page 235 to page 276 in the 1895, privately printed author's edi- 
tion), Lloyd raves. He gives us not only his encounter with the anagram- 
maric mother goddess Etidorhpa (she is "Aphrodite" backward), but a 
theory of time that bears the unmistakable imprint of the mushroom 
philosophe. At the end of seven chapters devoted to a classic psychopom- 
pic initiation via visionary fungi, Lloyd places a footnote that lets the cat 
out of the bag: 

If, in the course of experimentation, a chemist should strike upon a com- 
pound that in traces only would subject his mind and drive his pen to 
record such seemingly extravagant ideas as are found in the hallucina- 
tions herein pictured, or to frame word-sentences foreign to normal con- 
ditions, and beyond his natural ability, and yet could he not know the 
end of such a drug, would it not be his duty to bury the discovery from 
others, to cover from mankind the existence of such a noxious fruit of the 
chemist's or pharmaceutist's art? To sip once or twice of such a potent 
liquid, and then to write lines that tell the story of its power may do no 
harm to an individual on his guard, but mankind in common should 
never possess such a penetrating essence. Introduce such an intoxicant, 
and start it to ferment in humanity's blood, and it may spread from soul 
to soul, until, before the world is advised of its possible results, the ever 
increasing potency will gain such headway as to destroy, or debase, our 
civilization, and even to exterminate mankind. (1895, p. 276) 

And what are the extravagant ideas and hallucinations of which 
John Uri Lloyd wishes to speak? At the close of chapter 23, the hero of 
Etidorhpa is told to drink the juice of "a peculiar fungus." Our hero's 
guide minces no words: "He spoke the single word, 'Drink,' and I did as 
directed." The following three chapters are a virtual monologue on the 
methods of intoxication known to humanity worldwide and throughout 
history. The horror of inebriation and addiction is graphically depicted 
and reaches a climax in chapter 39, "Among the Drunkards." If these 
chapters are the obligatory hell experience of nineteenth-century drug 
reportage, then chapter 40 is the paradisiacal apotheosis. It is also the cli- 
max of the book and contains the incident in which the hero confronts 
Etidorhpa. Indeed, J. Augustus Knapp's beautiful etching of her is 
tipped into this chapter. Her appearance and retinue sets off a cascade of 
florid (and psychedelic) Victorian prose: 

Could any man from the data of my past experiences have predicted 
such a scene? Never before had the semblance of a woman appeared, 
never before had an intimation been given that the gentle sex existed in 



these silent chambers. Now, from the grotesque figures and horrible cries 
of the former occupants of this same cavern, the scene had changed to a 
conception of the beautiful and artistic, such as a poetic spirit might 
evolve in an extravagant dream of higher fairy land. 1 glanced above; the 
great hall was clothed in brilliant colors, the bare rocks had disappeared, 
the dome of that vast arch, reaching to an immeasurable height, was dec- 
orated in all the colors of the rainbow. Flags and streamers fluttered in 

which I could not sense. 

The band of spirits or fairy forms reached the rock at my feet, but I did 
not know how long a time they consumed in doing this; it may have 
been a second, and it may have been an eternity. Neither did I care. A 
single moment of existence such as I experienced, seemed worth an age 
of any other pleasure. (1895, p. 253) 

The appearance of the goddess is quickly followed by reestablish- 
ment of the theme of suffering and terror as the hero imagines himself 
lost and wandering for days in an arid wasteland, at first tormented by 
the sun, later frozen by its absence. As this hallucination fades: 

The ice scene dissolved, the enveloped frozen form of myself faded from 
view, the sand shrunk into nothingness, and with my natural body, and 
in normal condition, I found myself back in the earth cavern, on my 
knees, beside the curious inverted fungus, of which fruit I had eaten in 
obedience to my guide's directions. (1895, p. 270) 

At the beginning of chapter 42 the hero argues with his guide 
concerning the nature of what he has just experienced. The psychopomp 
speaks first: 

"You ate of the narcotic fungus; you have been intoxicated." 

"I have not," I retorted. "I have been through your accursed caverns and 
into hell beyond. I have been consumed by eternal damnation in the 
journey, have experienced a heaven of delight, and also an eternity of 

"Upon the contrary, the time that has passed since you drank the liquid 
contents of that fungus fruit has only been that which permitted you to 
fall upon your knees. You swallowed the liquor when I handed you the 
shell cup; you dropped upon your knees and then instantly awoke. See," 
he said; "in corroboration of my assertion the shell of the fungus fruit at 
your feet is still dripping with the liquid you did not drink. Time has 


been annihilated. Under the influence of this potent earth-bread narcoto- 
intoxicant, your dream began inside of eternity; you did not pass into it." 
(1895, pp. 272-273) 

These passages are more than sufficient to convince the open- 
minded reader that John Uri Lloyd, nineteenth-century savant, pharma- 
cist, occultist, and author, had discovered the consciousness-expanding 
properties of psiloeybin mushrooms, experienced them, and then decid- 
ed to suppress his discovery. Given Lloyd's obvious ambiguity toward 
the visionary state, evinced by his diatribes against intoxication, and his 
love of word play, evinced by his reversing the letters in the name 
Aphrodite to create the title of his masterpiece, I am emboldened to put 
forth evidence that argues that Lloyd had a particular species of mush- 
room in mind, one that must have been very familiar to his botanist 
brother Curtis. 

Facing page 116 in the author's 1895 edition is a magnificent full- 
page illustration of the hero and his guide making their way through a 
forest of enormous mushrooms. The caption reads "1 was in a forest of 
colossal fungi." While examining this illustration and thinking about the 
letter reversal used to form the book's title, it occurred to me that per- 
haps the clue to the identity of the intoxicant that Lloyd was so con- 
cerned to suppress might be hidden anagramatically in the captions of 
the full-page illustrations. 

"If such were the case," came the unbidden thought, "then the 
following full-page illustration may have a caption that can be manipu- 
lated to give the name of the secret source of the intoxicant." 

That illustration (opposite page 130) again shows hero and guide, this 
time examining the face of a stony cliff of a crystalline mineral. The cap- 
tion reads, "Monstrous Cubical Crystals." Annagramatic manipulation 
is unnecessary. Out of the caption the letter groups STRO CUB jump out 
at any one with any interest in ethnomycology. Stropfiaria cubensis is the 
species most likely to have been known to the botanical Lloyds! 

Does this mean that the mystery has been solved? That all the 
pieces neatly fall into place? Quite the contrary. Stropharia cubensis was 
supposedly not named until its discovery in Cuba by the botanist Earle 
in 1906. Nine years after the first publication of Etidorhpa! 

Are we dealing with an instance of prophetic vision, or an out- 
landishly improbable coincidence? Or would research show that the 
Lloyd brothers knew the work of Earle, knew even the name he would 
eventually propose for a new species of mushroom flourishing in the 
pastures of the American South and the Caribbean Islands? It is the kind 
of mystery that haunts research into the world of mycolatry, the kind of 
mystery that Gordon Wasson loved. 



Wasson's interest in Lloyd is a matter of record, though he never, 
to my knowledge, wrote about him in his books. There is a file at the 
Valentina and Gordon Wasson Ethno-mycological Collection at 
Harvard's Botanical Museum where Wasson saved newspaper clip- 
pings, letters, notes, and other information for a second edition of 
Mushrooms, Russia and History that never materialized. In this file is a let- 
ter from a Mr. Bernard Lentz dated May 16, 1957, recommending that 
Wasson read Etidorhpa. A copy of Wasson's reply, dated June 4, 1957, is 
also on file. It reads in part: "I shall try to look the matter up, when I 
have time. John Uri Lloyd— a well known name." Years later, in his for- 
to a bookseller's catalog, Wasson (1979) wrote the following: 

There is one item in it [the catalog) that interests me especially: Etidorptui 
("Aphrodite" spelled backwards), by J. U. Lloyd, a strange novel, or bet- 
ter a fantasy, first published in 1895, a novel that Michael Horowitz (the 
cataloguer) rightly says was a psychoactive mushroom tale. Where did 
Lloyd's ideas come from? He must have read carefully Captain John G. 
Bourke's Scatalogic Rites of All Nations, published in 1891, that immense 
and amazing collection of scatological materials. Lloyd's mushrooms are 
clearly not Amanita muscaria. Did he possess a copy of that rarest of all 
entheogenic books, by the famous English Mycologist M. C. Cooke, The 
Seven Sisters of Sleep, a book that Cooke never referred to in his later my- 
cological writings? Here is indeed a manual of psychoactive drugs, pub- 
lished almost 120 years ago! Nor was it included in the bibliography of 
his writings published on his death. How did Lloyd hit on this mush- 
room fantasy? Is there latent in our society a memory of mushroom use, 
long long ago, a subliminal memory that crops out in Lloyd's tale, also in 
Alice in Wonderland? The suggestive shapes and delicate changing colors 
of mushrooms, their sudden appearance and disappearance, the endless 
diversity in their odors, one for each species — all support a mushroom 
mythology that is backed up, when one knows about it, by the com- 
pelling entheogenic potency residing in some of them. (1979, p. 6) 

Again, as with Carroll and Wells, Wasson failed to admit the pos- 
sibility that Lloyd's insights were based on personal experience. But nei- 
ther did he rule it out. The matter thus remains to be resolved by a new 
generation of ethno-mycologists — or literary archaeologists. 

Finally, we turn to a work of the twentieth century overlooked by 
Wasson. In the May 1915 issue of the Irish Ecclestical Record a piece ap- 
peared, written by an A. Newman, titled "Monsieur Among the 
Mushrooms." This piece purports to be a nonficrion recollection of a per- 
son known to the author. "Monsieur Among the Mushrooms" was 



reprinted in 1917, one piece among many, in a book titled Unknown 
Immortals — In the Northern City of Success by one Herbert Moore Pirn, ap- 
parently a minor essayist and journalist of the time. Pirn in his preface 
thanks the editors of the Irish Ecclestical Record for permission to reprint 
"Monsieur," so we can be confident that Pirn is A. Newman. 

While the mushrooms described in "Monsieur" are not overtly 
psychoactive (except, perhaps, as a fetish), the story is relevant to our 
discussion for being (1) the record of a person with an appreciation of 
mushrooms on a cosmic scale and (2) the earliest known instance of a 
modem cult of mushroom users. Pirn says in his preface: 

The original of "Monsieur Among the Mushrooms" is alive and prosper- 
ous. He is a perfectly amazing person, a man of considerable fortune, 
who has, I believe, been detained in an asylum on several occasions. He 
conducts a large business during the day-time; but he may be discovered 
at four or five o'clock in the morning, pouring forth a stream of bril- 
liance, and holding men in the cold street against their will. His brain 
works with such rapidity that he has constructed a language of his own, 
by means of which only the absolutely essential thought is presented to 
the hearer. I have seen calm men whipped into fury when they found 
themselves simply swept off their feet in argument with my model. 

In "Monsieur" I have drawn him exactly as he exists, save in the matter 
of the physical description Apart from that fact, there is nothing exag- 
gerated; and the debate between Monsieur and the members of the com- 
mittee is almost as true as a description of such a debate could be. There 
you see my model and his method (1917, p. 604) 

"Monsieur Among the Mushrooms" is a recollection of a remark- 
able personality, we might say an obsessed personality, who has been 
committed to an asylum because of his unusual ideas concerning fungi. 
In the piece, Monsieur argues that he is sane before the release commit- 
tee of the asylum in which he resides. But before that Pirn informs us of 
the remarkable philosophy and history of his model, as he calls him: 

Here it was that Monsieur learned how the mushroom might be per- 
suaded to grow; and here it was that for many days he toiled unob- 
served, appropriately attired in black, with a light heart and a somewhat 
lightened purse. And in those first, fresh, active days he found time 

*ln the bibliography to this work, I have included citations for both instances in which 
"Monsieur Among the Mushrooms" was printed, since both are obscure and difficult to 
obtain. The 1915 version has extensive footnotes, which were dropped from the 1917 
reprinting. Special deep thanks to Michael Horowitz of Flashback Books in Petaluma. 



even to press his theory upon others as a physic to be received in small 
measures, while the giver retains something, if it even be the bottle. And 
so it came that, in a little while, there arose a respectful company of be- 

"How great, indeed," Monsieur would exclaim, "is the mushroom! it has 
claimed the round world for its habitation; and when man rears his cities 
of stone it demands of him that even in the heart of cities it shall be given 
space to express itself in silence." 

There was the world itself to be considered. For presently it put its claw 
into its own stomach, where Monsieur and his disciples were digesting 
wisdom, and demanded to know the reason for an aesthetic appreciation 
of a commodity interesting only for its commercial value. (1915, p. 588) 

Needless to say, a hearing was held, its conclusions forgone: 

And who can forget the genial and superior smile which rested upon the 
faces of his judges? The mushroom was the all-powerful exception! Just 
so. Who could doubt it? But for such as believed in it there had been 
made complete provision. 

"But how," exclaimed Monsieur, "shall 1 make progress in my investiga- 

He was assured with gentleness that, even though placed extra muros, he 
should have "every facility," "ample scope," and that, above all, he 
might hope to be well again. 

"But to what end?" he interrupted. 

"In order," it was explained to him, "that you may be in harmony with 
the majority." 

"But the majority here are mushrooms! Man, their toy, is nowhere. It is 
he who is extra muros!" (1915, p. 590) 

A virtual prisoner, Monsieur spends his days in the asylum con- 
templating the irony of his situation and ultimately hatches a plan of es- 
cape. His asylum musings revolve around only one theme: 

With his knowledge of the mushroom he was all-powerful. Behind the 
material which witnessed to a supremely strong exception, there was the 
energy of mind that drove and guided, swept aside and conquered. And 
in the mushroom itself there was unity without contact. The mushroom 
was, indeed, a giant body torn and strewn over the earth. There was the 



fungus of the hair. There was that which, by its shape, clearly proved the 
existence of the brain. There was a form which made certain that the egg 
was the origin of that which it contained. There was the manifestation of 
that which generates. And there was a growth which appertained to the 
lower animals. There were many things besides: the star-like eyes, from 
which the sun and moon derived their radiance; the great masses of 
body and limb; the fingers and the features; the mouth that devoured. 
There was the warrior from whose wounds blood could flow. There was 
that which indicated the cellular structure of the human body, and in- 
deed of all living things. And yet all this was incalculably strong, and all 
this was inexplicably united. (1915, p. 592) 

Eventually Monsieur effects a daring, mushroom-assisted escape. 
Then we are told in a footnote: 

He lived for some time under the protection of the keeper of a plant 
nursery, who had become so enthusiastic a believer in the doctrine of the 
Mushroom that he painted his glass-houses with a black light-excluding 
fluid, and cultivated the mushroom reverently. A primitive worship had 
already developed when Monsieur was restored to his followers. I have 
reason to believe that he prepared to encourage this, and, in some re- 
spects to modify it. But the world interfered. There is a journal before me 
which records frequent attacks upon the glass-houses; and there are ref- 
erences to search parties from the asylum. I am enabled to trace the pur- 
chase of a sailing ship by the keeper of the plant nursery, and the 
embarkation of Monsieur and his followers upon this ship, the hold of 
which contained mushroom-spore bricks. After that I have no reliable ev- 
idence. (1915, p. 605) 

Aside from the early date of its composition, what makes 
"Monsieur Among the Mushrooms" so interesting is that it purports to 
be a factual account of a group of people, informed as to the transforma- 
tive power of the mushroom and united around a leader and a set of cult 
practices. It is difficult to believe that Pirn would have given such a cen- 
tral philosophical role to mushrooms had he not been aware of the vi- 
sionary experience imparted by psilocybin-containing species. 

Perhaps Pim had read Etidorhpa. The book was very popular in its 
time, having influenced no less a personage that Howard Phillips 
Lovecraft, the inventor of "cosmic horror" science fiction and the 
Chthulu mythos. Lovecraft makes reference to Etidorhpa in material con- 
tained in his Selected Letters and Marginalia, noting for instance that his 
visit to the Endless Caverns in Virginia made him think "above all else, 
of that strange old novel Etidorhpa once pass'd around our Kleicomolo 



Ultimately we are left with a number of unanswered questions: 
Who was the mysterious Monsieur and where and how did he discover 
the psychoactive properties of mushrooms? Was Monsieur actually 
Herbert Moore Pirn himself?* Are there other written records concerning 
this remarkable career? Into what asylum was Monsieur placed? What 
"journals" did Pirn refer to as describing the attacks on the glasshouses 
of Monsieur's benefactor? And finally, what became of Monsieur, his 
writings, and his disciples? 

All fascinating questions, answers to which would serve to illu- 

minate the real status of awareness of psilocybin in the pre-Wasson era. 


Finally we come to the notion of those precursors of Wasson who 
were his peers. For no one's thought grows in a world devoid of its self- 
reflections. The most apparent initiatory influence on Gordon Wasson in 
the matter of mushrooms was certainly his wife, partner, and codiscov- 

Suddenly, before I knew it, my bride threw down my hand roughly and 
ran up into the forest, with cries of ecstasy. She had seen toadstools 
growing, many kinds of toadstools. She had not seen the like since 
Russia, since 1917. She was in a delirium of excitement and began gather- 
ing them right and left in her shirt. From the path I called to her, admon- 
ished her not to gather them: they were toadstools, I said, they were 
poisonous ... I acted the perfect Anglo-Saxon oaf confronting a wood 
nymph I had never before laid eyes on. (Wasson et al., 1986, p. 17) 

Valentina and Gordon Wasson were influenced in the direction of 
their mushroom studies by Robert Graves, quoted above. Graves dis- 
cusses Wasson in a number of essays published together as Difficult 
s, Easy Answers. In one of these, "The Two Births of Dionysus," 
> writes: 

Wasson began his career as a journalist without any university education 
(which may account for the preservation of his genius), became a Wall 
Street reporter, was taken over by J. P. Morgan & Co. as their press agent, 
and soon elevated to Vice-President when his extraordinary understand- 
ing of business became apparent. Similarly with his second profession: 
he began as an amateur mycologist and has since become the acknowl- 

*A respectable precedent for this was set by William James w 
tion of his own severe attacks of melancholia attributed to 
I Experience (1902). 

a descrip- 
else in Varieties of 



edged founder of the huge, immensely important new science, ethnomy- 
cology. Whenever I pick up strange news of mushrooms, as often hap- 
pens, I send it to him for filing. It had been a chance bit of information 
that 1 passed on to him in the early fifties that prompted him to investi- 
gate the mushroom oracles of Mexico. (1964, pp. 108-9) 

Robert Graves's writings on mushrooms, poetry, and mythology 
deserve a wider audience. His thought runs in a parallel stream to that 
of Wasson, and each illuminates the other. Graves's Food for Centaurs 
and Difficult Questions, Easy Answers are rich with thought and imagery 
directed toward understanding the psychedelic experience. 

Graves's last sentence above is fascinating. "It had been a chance 
bit of information that I passed on to him in the early fifties that prompt- 
ed him to investigate the mushroom oracles of Mexico." Graves is casu- 
ally referring to the pivotal incident in the reemergence of Western 
civilization's discovery of visionary ecstasy through psilocybin. One can 
only wonder just where Robert Graves had picked up this "chance bit of 
information." Quite by coincidence I ran across a passage in an unlikely 
source that may shed light on this. 

In discussing Sufi techniques of word play, Idris Shah in his book 
The Sufis makes the following comments: 

The Arabic word for a hallucinogenic fungus is from the root GHRB. 

influence of hallucinogenic fungi. (1964, p.129) 8 ^ 

Shah goes on to quote from the Sufi ecstatic Mast Qalandar. After 
analyzing the text, Shah concludes: 

The usages of these words, though not incorrect, are so unusual (because 
there is so often a conventional word more apt in such a context) that 
there is absolutely no doubt that a message is being conveyed to the ef- 
fect that chemical hallucinogens derived from fungi provide an undeni- 
able but counterfeit experience. (1964, p. 129) 

In the world of ethnomycology the news of an Arabic or Sufi 
mushroom cult, ancient or modern, would be of great interest. Shah de- 
nies the possibility that Sufis used mushrooms, but his very denial is the 
first time I have heard such a thing suggested. The gentleman doth 
protest too much. Something in this reminded me of a passage in 
Graves's essay "The Two Births of Dionysus" mentioned above, wherein 
he explicitly mentions his own awareness of Stropharia: 



[Wasson] with his Russian wife, had made me aware that stropharia, a 
small [sic] mushroom growing on cow dung, possesses much the same 
properties, and whispered news comes to me that this was still used for 
sacred purposes in India where it grew on the dung of sacred cows. 
(1964, p. 107) 

It appears to me that Graves learned about mushrooms from Idris 
Shah. Indeed the introduction to Shah's book, The Sufis, is written by 
Robert Graves! At one point Graves writes "I wrote to Idris Shah and he 
replied" (1964, p. xiii). In another place he remarks, speaking of an em- 
blem, "Idris Shah Sayed has explained its symbolism to me" (1964, p. xv). 

Idris Shah Sayed happens to be in the senior male line of descent 
from the Prophet Mohammed and to have inherited the secret mysteries 
from the Caliphs, his ancestors. He is, in fact, a Grand Sheikh of the Sufi 

Here then is the place to leave this scholarly reminiscence, having 
shown earnestly but light-heartedly that our beloved Valentina and 
Gordon Wasson, when they went to Mexico in search of magic mush- 
rooms, may have been acting on a hint dropped to an Irish poet by a 
great-grandson of Mohammed. The Wassons thereby gave meaning to 
the otherwise premature and incomprehensible discoveries of John Uri 
Lloyd and Herbert Moore Pirn. And more than all that: they thereby 
gave psilocybin to the modern world. 

Critique Interview 

B: IT'S A pleasure to be here with you again, Terence. 
We'd like to begin by asking you to tell us how you be- 
came interested in shamanism and the exploration of 

TM: I discovered shamanism through an interest 
in Tibetan folk religion. Bon-Po, the pre-Buddhist reli- 
gion of Tibet, is a kind of shamanism. In going from the 

particular to the general with that concern, I studied shamanism as a 
general phenomenon. It all started out as an art historical interest in the 
pre-Buddhist iconography of thankas. 

DB: This was how long ago? 

TM: This was in '67, when I was just a sophomore in college. 
And the interest in altered states of consciousness came simply from, I 
don't know whether I was a precocious kid or what, but I was very early 
into the New York literary scene, and even though I lived in a small 
town in Colorado, I subscribed to the Village Voice and The Evergreen 
Review, where I encountered propaganda about LSD, mescaline, and all 
these experiments that the late beatniks were involved in. Then 1 read 
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, and it just rolled from there. 
That was what really put me over. I respected Huxley as a novelist, and 
I was slowly reading everything he'd ever written, and when I got to The 

This interview by David Jay Brown and Rebecca McCien appeared in Critique, 
summer 1989. Critique has since changed its name to Sacred Fire. 



of Perception I said to myself, "There's something going on here for 

DB: Recently you personally addressed close to two thousand 
le at the John Anson Ford Theater in Los Angeles. To what do you 
attribute your increasing popularity, and what role do you see yourself 
playing in the social sphere? 

TM: Well, without being cynical, the main thing I attribute to my 
increasing popularity is better public relations. As far as what role I'll 
play, I don't know. I mean, I assume that anyone who has anything con- 
structive to say about our relationship to chemical substances, natural 
and synthetic, is going to have a role to play, because this drug issue is 
going to loom larger and larger on the social agenda until we get some 
resolution of it — and by resolution I don't mean suppression or just say- 
ing no. I anticipate a new open-mindedness bom of desperation on the 
part of the Establishment. Drugs are part of the human experience, and 
we have got to create a more sophisticated way of dealing with them 
than exhortations to abstinence, because that has failed. 

RM: You have said that the term New Age trivializes the signifi- 
cance of the next phase in human evolution and have referred instead to 
the emergence of an Archaic Revival. How do you differentiate between 
these two expressions? 

TM: The New Age is essentially humanistic psychology eighties 
style, with the addition of neo-shamanism, channeling, crystal and 
herbal healing, and this sort of thing. The Archaic Revival is a much 
ger, more global phenomenon that assumes that we are recovering 
social forms of the late neolithic, and the Archaic Revival reaches far 
back in the twentieth century to Freud, to surrealism, to abstract expres- 
sionism, even to a phenomenon like National Socialism, which is a nega- 
tive force. But the stress on ritual, on organized activity, on race/ancestor 
consciousness — these are themes that have been worked out throughout 
the entire twentieth century, and the Archaic Revival is an expression 

RM: In the book you wrote with your brother Dennis, The 
invisible Landscape, and in recent lectures and workshops, you've spoken 
of a new model of time and your efforts to model the evolution of novel- 
ty based on the ancient Oriental system of divination, the I Ching. Can 
you briefly explain how you developed this model, and how an individ- 
ual can utilize this system to modulate their own perspective on the na- 



TM: It's not easily explained. If I were to give an extremely brief 
resume" of it, I would say that the new view of time is that time is holo- 
graphic, fractal, and moves toward a definitive conclusion, rather than 
the historical model of time, which is open-ended, trendlessly fluctuat- 
ing, and in practical terms endless. What's being proposed is a spiral 
model of history that sees history as a process actually leading toward a 
conclusion. But the details of it are fairly complex. 

DB: According to your timewave model, novelty reaches its 
peak expression and history appears to come to a close in the year 2012. 
Can you explain what you mean by this, and what the global or evolu- 
tionary implications are of what you refer to as the "end of time"? 

TM: What I mean is this: The theory describes time with what 
are called novelty waves; because waves have wavelengths, one must 
assign an end point to the novelty wave, so the end of time is nothing 
more than the point on the historical continuum that is assigned as the 
end point of the novelty wave. Novelty is something that has been slow- 
ly maximized through the life of the universe, something that reaches in- 
finite density, or infinite contraction at the point from which the wave is 
generated. Trying to imagine what time would be like near the temporal 
singularity is difficult because we are far from it, in another domain of 
physical law. There need to be more facts in play before we will be able 
to correctly envisage the end of time, but what we can say concerning 
the singularity is this: it is the obviation of life in three-dimensional 
space, everything that is familiar comes to an end, everything that can be 
described in Euclidian space is superseded by modes of being that re- 
quire a more complicated description than is currently available. 

DB: From your writings I have gleaned that you subscribe to the 
notion that psilocybin mushrooms are a species of high intelligence, that 
they arrived on this planet as spores that migrated through outer space 
and are attempting to establish a symbiotic relationship with human be- 
ings. In a more holistic perspective, how do you see this notion fitting 
into the context of Francis Crick's theory of directed pan-spermia, the 
hypothesis that all life on this planet and its directed evolution has been 
seeded, or perhaps fertilized, by spores designed by a higher intelli- 

TM: As I understand the Crick theory of pan-spermia, it's a theo- 
ry of how life spread through the universe. What I was suggesting, and I 
don't believe it as strongly as you imply, but I entertain it as a possibili- 
ty, is that intelligence, not life, but intelligence may have come here in 
this spore-bearing life form. This is a more radical version of 



spermia theory of Crick and Ponnamperuma. In fact, I think that theory 
will probably be vindicated. In a hundred years, if people do biology 
they will think it quite silly that people once thought that spores could 
not be blown from one star system to another by light pressure. As far as 
the role of the psilocybin mushroom, or its relationship to us and to in- 
telligence, this is something that we need to consider. It really isn't im- 
portant that I claim that it's an extraterrestrial; what we need is a body 
>ple claiming this, or a body of people denying it, because what 
talking about is the experience of the mushroom. Few people are 
in a position to judge its extraterrestrial potential, because few people in 
the orthodox sciences have ever experienced the full spectrum of 
psychedelic effects that is unleashed. One cannot find out whether or 
not there's an extraterrestrial intelligence inside the mushroom unless 
one is willing to take the mushroom. 

DB: You have a unique theory about the role that psilocybin 
mushrooms play in the process of human evolution. Can you tell us 
about this? 

TM: Whether the mushrooms came from outer space or not, the 
presence of psychedelic substances in the diet of early human beings 
created a number of changes in our evolutionary situation. When a per- 
son takes small amounts of psilocybin their visual acuity improves. They 
can actually see slightly better, and this means that animals allowing 
psilocybin into their food chain would have increased hunting success, 
which means increased food supply, which means increased reproduc- 
tive success, which is the name of the game in evolution. It is the organ- 
ism that manages to propagate itself numerically that is successful. The 
presence of psilocybin in the diet of early pack-hunting primates caused 
the individuals that were ingesting the psilocybin to have increased vi- 
sual acuity. At slightly higher doses of psilocybin there is sexual arousal 
and erection, and everything that goes with arousal of the central ner- 
vous system. Again, a factor that would increase reproductive success is 

DB: Isn't it true that psilocybin inhibits orgasm? 

TM: No. I've never heard that. Not at the doses I'm talking 
about. At a psychedelic dose it might, but at just slightly above the "you 
can feel it" dose, it acts as a stimulant. Sexual arousal means paying at- 
tention, it means jumpiness, it indicates a certain energy level in the or- 
ganism. And then, of course, at still higher doses psilocybin triggers this 
activity in the language-forming capacity of the brain that manifests as 


sight, sexual interest, and imagination. And the three of these going to- 
gether produce language-using primates. Psilocybin may have syner- 
gized the emergence of higher forms of psychic organization out of 
primitive proto-human animals. It can be seen as a kind of evolutionary 
enzyme, or evolutionary catalyst 

DB: During your shamanistic voyages how do you — or do 
you — differentiate between the literal and the metaphorical I/thou dia- 
logue that appears to occur in certain states of consciousness? In other 
words, how do you differentiate between the possibility that you are 
communicating with otherworldly independently existing entities and 
the possibility that you are communicating with isolated unconscious 
neuron clusters in your own brain? 

TM: It's very hard to differentiate it. How can I make that same 
distinction right now? How do I know I'm talking to you? It's just provi- 
sionally assumed that you are ordinary enough that I don't question that 
you're there, but if you had two heads, I would question whether you 
were there. I would investigate to see if you were really what you ap- 
pear to be. It's very hard to tell what this I/thou relationship is about, 
because it's very difficult to define the "I" part of it, let alone the "thou" 
part of it. I haven't found a way to tell, to trick it, as it were, into show- 
ing whether it is an extraterrestrial or the back side of my own head. 

DB: But normally the way we can tell is we receive mutual veri- 
fication from other people, and we get information from many senses. 
You can touch me. You can see me. You can hear me. 

TM: Well this is simply a voice, you know, so it's the issue of the 
mysterious telephone call. If you're awakened in the middle of the night 
by a telephone call, and you pick up the phone, and someone says 
"Hello," it would not be your first inclination to ask "Is anybody there?" 
because they just said "hello." That establishes that somebody is there, 
but you can't see them, maybe they're aren't there, maybe you've been 
called by a machine. I've been called by machines. You pick up the 
phone and it says "Hello this is Sears, and we're calling to tell you that 
your order 16312 is ready for pickup," and you say "Oh, thank you." 
"Don't mention it." No, so this issue of identifying the other with cer- 
tainty is tricky, even in ordinary intercourse. 

RM: There is a lot of current interest in the ancient art of sound 
technology. In a recent article you said that in certain states of conscious- 
ness you're able to create a kind of visual resonance and manipulate a 



'topological manifold" using sound vibrations. Can you tell us more 
about this technique, its ethnic origins, and its potential applications? 

TM: Yes, it has to do with shamanism that is based on the use of 
DMT in plants. DMT is a neurotransmitter that, when ingested and al- 
lowed to come to rest in unusually large amounts in the synapses of the 
brain, allows one to see sound, so that one can use the voice to produce 
not musical compositions, but pictorial and visual compositions. This, to 
my mind, indicates that we're on the cusp of some kind of evolutionary 
ransition in the language-forming area, so that we are going to go from 
language that is heard to a language that is seen, through a shift in in- 
terior processing. The language will still be made of sound, but it will be 
processed as the carrier of the visual impression. This is actually being 
ione by shamans in the Amazon. The songs they sing sound as they do 
in order to look a certain way. They are not musical compositions as 
ve're used to thinking of them. They are pictorial art that is caused by 
jdio signals. 

DB: Terence, you're recognized by many as one of the great ex- 
i of the twentieth century. You've trekked through the Amazonian 
and soared through the uncharted regions of the brain, but per- 
ips your ultimate voyages lie in the future, when humanity has mas- 
space technology and time travel. What possibilities for travel in 
two areas do you foresee, and how do you think these new tech- 
jgies will affect the future evolution of the human species? 

TM: Some question. I suppose most people believe space travel 
is right around the corner. I certainly hope so. I think we should all learn 
Russian in anticipation of it, because apparently the U.S. government is 
incapable of sustaining a space program. The time travel question is 
are interesting. Possibly the world is experiencing a compression of 
al novelty that is going to lead to developments that are very 
much like what we would imagine time travel to be. We may be closing 
in on the ability to transmit information forward into the future, and to 
ate an informational domain of communication between various 
ints in time. How this will be done is difficult to imagine, but things 
fractal mathematics, superconductivity, and nanotechnology offer 
new and novel approaches to realizing these old dreams. We shouldn't 
assume time travel is impossible simply because it hasn't been done. 
There's plenty of latitude in the laws of quantum physics to allow for 
moving information through time in various ways. Apparently you can 
move information through time, as long as you don't move it through 
time faster than light. 



DB: Why is that? 

TM: I haven't the faintest idea. What am I, Einstein? 

DB: Well, Terence, now I'm wondering what you think the ulti- 
mate goal of human evolution is? 

TM: Oh, a good party. 

DB: Have you ever had any experiences with lucid dreaming— 
the process by which one can become aware and conscious within a 
dream that one is dreaming — and if so, how do they compare with your 
other shamanic experiences? 

TM: I really haven't had experiences with lucid dreaming. It's 
one of those things that I'm very interested in. I'm sort of skeptical of it. I 
hope it's true, because what a wonderful thing that would be. 

DB: You've never had one? 

TM: I've had lucid dreams, but I have no technique for repeating 
them on demand. The dream state is possibly anticipating this cultural 
frontier that we're moving toward. We are approaching something very 
much like eternal dreaming, going into the imagination, and staying 
there, and that would be like a lucid dream that knew no end— but what 
a tight, simple solution. One of the things that interests me about dreams 
is this: I have dreams in which I smoke DMT, and it works. To me that's 
extremely interesting, because it seems to imply that one does not have 
to smoke DMT to have the experience. You only have to convince your 
brain that you have done this, and it then delivers this staggering altered 

DB: Wow. 

TM: How many people who have had DMT dream occasionally 
of smoking it and have it happen? Do people who have never had DMT 
ever have that kind of an experience in a dream? I bet not. I bet you have 
to have done it in life to have established the knowledge of its existence, 
and the image of how it's possible, but then this thing can happen to you 
without any chemical intervention. It is more powerful than any yoga, 
so taking control of the dream state would certainly be an advantageous 
thing and carry us a great distance toward the kind of cultural transfor- 
mation that we're talking about. How exactly to do it, I'm not sure. The 


sychedelics, the near-death experience, the lucid dreaming, the medira- 
reveries— all of these things are pieces of a puzzle about how to 
create a new cultural dimension that we can all live in a little more sane- 
■ than we're living in these dimensions. 

DB: Do you have any thoughts on what happens to human con- 
sciousness after biological death? 

TM: I've thought about it. When I think about it I feel like I'm on 
ny own. The Logos doesn't want to help here. The Logos has nothing to 
to me on the subject of biological death. What I imagine happens is 
: for the self time begins to flow backward, even before death; the act 
; is the act of reliving an entire life, and at the end of the dying 
"consciousness divides into the consciousness of one's parents 
and one's children, and then it moves through these modalities, and 
, divides again. It's moving forward into the future through the peo- 
; who come after you, and backward into the past through your ances- 
tors. The further away from the moment of death it is, the faster it 
yves, so that after a period of time, the Tibetans say 42 days, one is re- 
to everything that ever lived, and the previous ego-pointed 
stence is allowed to dissolve, returned to the ocean, the morphogenet- 
ld, or the One of Plotinus — you choose your term. A person is a fo- 
I illusion of being, and death occurs when the illusion of being is no 
longer sustained. Then everything flows out, and away from the dis- 
equilibrium state that is life, ft is a state of disequilibrium, yet it is main- 
for decades, but finally, like all disequilibrium states, it must 
yield to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and at that point it runs 
down, its specific character disappears into the general character of the 
1 around it. It has returned then to the void/plenum. 

DB: What if you don't have children? 

TM: Well, then you flow backward into the past, into your par- 
ents, and their parents, and their parents, and eventually all life, and 
back into the primal protozoa. It's very interesting that in the celebration 
of the Eleusinian mysteries, when they took the sacrament, what the god 
said was, "Procreate, procreate." It is uncanny the way history is deter- 
mined by who sleeps with whom, who gets born, what lines are drawn 
faxd, what tendencies are accelerated. Most people experience what 
' call magic only in the dimension of mate seeking, and this is where 
even the dullest people have astonishing coincidences, and unbelievable 
things go on — it's almost as though hidden strings were being pulled, 
e's an esoteric tradition that the genes, the matings, are where it's 


all being run from. It is how I think a superextraterrestrial would inter- 
vene. It wouldn't intervene at all; it would make us who it wanted us to 
be by controlling synchronicity and coincidence around mate choosing. 

RM: Rupert Sheldrake has recently refined the theory of the 
morphogenetic field — a nonmaterial organizing collective memory field 
that affects all biological systems. This field can be envisioned as a hy- 
perspatial information reservoir that brims and spills over into a much 
larger region of influence when critical mass is reached— a point re- 
ferred to as morphic resonance. Do you think this morphic resonance 
could be regarded as a possible explanation for the phenomena of spirits 
and other metaphysical entities, and can the method of evoking beings 
from the spirit world be simply a case of cracking the morphic code? 


TM: That sounds right. It's something like that. If what you're 
trying to get at is do I think morphogenetic fields are a good thing, or do 
they exist, yes I think some kind of theory like that is clearly becoming 
necessary, and that the next great step to be taken in the intellectual con- 
quest of nature, if you will, is a theory about how out of the class of pos- 
sible things, some things actually happen. 

RM: Do you think it could be related to the phenomena of spirits? 

TM: Spirits are the presence of the past, specifically expressed. 
When you go to ruins like Angkor Wat, or Tikal, the presence is there. 
You have to be pretty dull to not see how it was, where the market stalls 
were, the people and their animals, and the trade goods. It's quite weird. 
We're only conventionally bound in the present by our linguistic as- 
sumptions, but if we can still our linguistic machinery, the mind spreads 
out into time and behaves in very unconventional ways. 

DB: How do you view the increasing waves of designer psy- 
chedelics and brain-enhancement machines in the context of Rupert 
Sheldrake's theory of morphogenetic fields? 

TM: Well, I'm hopeful but somewhat suspicious. I think psy- 
chedelics should come from the natural world and be use-tested by 
shamanically oriented cultures; then they have a very deep morpho- 
genetic field, because they've been used thousands and thousands of 
years in magical contexts. A drug produced in the laboratory and sud- 
denly distributed worldwide simply amplifies the global noise present 
in the historical crisis. And then there's the very practical consideration 
that one cannot predict the long-term effects of a drug produced in a lab- 



atory. Hashish, morning glories, and mushrooms have been used for 
-ast stretches of time without detrimental social consequences. We 
w that. As far as the technological question is concerned, brain ma- 
and all, I wish them luck. I'm willing to test anything that some- 
y will send me, but I'm skeptical. I think it's somehow like the 
speech-operated typewriter. It will recede ahead of us. The problems 
be found to have been far more complex than first supposed. 

DB: It's interesting the way you anticipate each question. The re- 
cent development of fractal images seems to imply that visions and hal- 
tions can be broken down into a precise mathematical code. With 
this in mind, do you think the abilities of the human imagination can be 
replicated in a supercomputer? 

TM: Yes. Saying that the components of hallucinations can be 
broken down and duplicated by mathematical code isn't taking any- 
thing away from them. Reality can be taken apart and reduplicated with 
this same mathematical code — that's what makes the fractal idea so 
powerful. One can type in half a page of code and on the screen get river 
systems, mountain ranges, deserts, ferns, coral reefs, all being generated 
out of half a page of computer coding. This seems to imply that we are 
finally discovering really powerful mathematical rules that stand behind 
visual appearances. And yes, I think supercomputers, computer graph- 
ics, and simulated environments, this is very promising stuff. When the 
world's being run by machines, we'll all be at the movies. Oh boy. 

RM: Or making movies. 

TM: Or being movies. 

RM: It seems that human language is evolving at a much slower 
rate than is the ability of human consciousness to navigate more com- 
plex and more profound levels of reality. How do you see language de- 
veloping and evolving so as to become a more sensitive transceiving 
device for sharing conscious experience? 

TM: Actually, consciousness can't evolve any faster than lan- 
guage. The rate at which language evolves determines how fast con- 
sciousness evolves; otherwise you're just lost in what Wittgenstein 
called the unspeakable. You can feel it, but you can't speak of it, so it's 
an entirely private reality. Notice how we have very few words for emo- 
tions? I love you, I hate you, and then basically we run a dial between 
those. I love you a lot, I hate you a lot. 



RM: How do you feel? Fine. 

TM: Yes, how do you feel, fine; and yet we have thousands and 
thousands of words about rugs, and widgets, and this and that, so we 
need to create a much richer language of emotion. There are times — and 
this would be a great study for somebody to do — there have been peri- 
ods in English when there were emotions that don't exist anymore, be- 
cause the words have been lost. This is getting very close to this 
business of how reality is made by language. Can we recover a lost 
emotion by creating a word for it? There are colors that don't exist any- 
more because the words have been lost. I'm thinking of the word 
jacinth. This is a certain kind of orange. Once you know the word 
jacinth, you always can recognize it, but if you don't have it, all you can 
say is it's a little darker orange than something else. We've never tried 
to consciously evolve our language, we've just let it evolve, but now we 
have this level of awareness, and this level of cultural need where we 
really must plan where the new words should be generated. There are 
areas where words should be gotten rid of that empower political 
wrong thinking. The propagandists for the fascists already understand 
this; they understand that if you make something unsayable, you've 
made it unthinkable. So it doesn't plague you anymore. So planned 
evolution of language is the way to speed it toward expressing the fron- 
tier of consciousness. 

DB: I've thought at times that what you view as a symbiosis 
forming between humans and psychoactive plants may in fact be the 
plants taking over control of our lives and commanding us to do their 
bidding. Have you any thoughts on this? 

TM: Well, symbiosis is not parasitism; symbiosis is a situation of 
mutual benefit to both parties, so we have to presume that the plants are 
getting as much out of this as we are. What we're getting is information 
from another spiritual level. They are giving us their point of view. 
What we're giving them is care, and feeding, and propagation, and sur- 
vival, so they give us their very different point of view. We in turn re- 
spond by making the way easier for them in the physical world. And 
this seems a reasonable trade-off. Obviously they have difficulty in the 
physical world; plants don't move around much. You talk about Tao, a 
plant has the Tao. It doesn't even chop wood and carry water. 

RM: Future predictions are often based upon the study of previ- 
ous patterns and trends that are then extended like the contours of a 
map to extrapolate the shape of things to come. The future can also be 
as an ongoing dynamic creative interaction between the past and 



the present — the current interpretation of past events actively serves to 
formulate these future patterns and trends. Have you been able to recon- 
cile these two perspectives so that humanity is able to leam from its ex- 
periences without being bound by the habits of history? 

TM: The two are antithetical. You must not be bound by the 
habits of history if you want to learn from your experience. It was 
Ludwig von Bertalartffy, the inventor of general systems theory, who 
made the famous statement that "people are not machines, but in all sit- 
uations where they are given the opportunity, they will act like ma- 
chines," so you have to keep disturbing them, because they always settle 
down into a routine. So historical patterns are largely cyclical, but not 
entirely — there is ultimately a highest level of the partem, which does 
not repeat, and that's the part that is responsible for the advance into 
true novelty. 

RM: The part that doesn't repeat. Hmm. The positive futurists 
tend to fall into two groups. Some visualize the future as becoming pro- 
gressively brighter every day and think that global illumination will oc- 
cur as a result of this progression; others envision a period of actual 
devolution— a dark age — through which human consciousness must 
pass before more advanced stages are reached. Which scenario do you 
see as being the most likely to emerge, and why do you hold this view? 

TM: I guess I'm a soft Dark Ager. I think there will be a mild 
dark age. I don't think it will be anything like the dark ages that lasted a 
thousand years; I think it will last more like five years and will be a time 
of economic retraction, religious fundamentalism, retreat into closed 
communities by certain segments of the society, feudal warfare among 
minor states, resource scarcity, and this sort of thing. But I think it will 
give way in the late nineties to the global future that we're all yearning 
for, and then there will be basically a fifteen-year period where all these 
things are drawn together with progressively greater and greater sophis- 
tication, much in the way that modern science and philosophies have 
grown with greater and greater sophistication in a single direction since 
the Renaissance. Sometime around the end of 2012 all of this will be 
boiled down into a kind of alchemical distillation of the historical experi- 
ence that will be a doorway into the life of the imagination. 

RM: Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance, Ralph Abraham's 
chaos theory, and your timewave model all appear to contain comple- 
mentary patterns that operate on similar underlying principles — that en- 
ergy systems store information until a certain level is reached and the 
information is then transduced into a larger frame of reference, like 



water in a tiered fountain. Have you worked these theories into an all- 
encompassing metatheory of how the universe functions and operates? 

TM: No, but we're working on it. Well, it is true that the three of 
us — and I would add Frank Barr in there, who is less well known but 
has a piece of the puzzle as well — we're all complementary. Rupert's 
theory is, at this point, a hypothesis. There are no equations, there's no 
predictive machinery; it's a way of speaking about experimental ap- 
proaches. My timewave theory is like an extremely formal and specific 
example of what he's talking about in a general way. And then what 
Ralph's doing is providing a bridge from the kind of things Rupert and I 
are doing back into the frontier branch of ordinary mathematics called 
dynamic modeling. And Frank is an expert in the repetition of fractal 
process. He can show you the same thing happening on many many 
levels, in many many different expressions. So 1 have named us 
Compressionists, or Psychedelic Compressionists. Compressionism 
holds that the world is growing more and more complex, compressed, 
knitted together, and therefore holographically complete at every point, 
and that's basically where the four of us stand, I think, but from differ- 
ent points of view. 

DB: Can you tell us about Botanical Dimensions, and any cur- 
rent projects that you're working on? 

TM: Botanical Dimensions is a nonprofit foundation that at- 
tempts to rescue plants with a history of shamanic and human usage in 
the warm tropics, and rescue the information about how they're used, 
store the information in computers, and move the plants to a nineteen- 
acre site in Hawaii, in a rain forest belt that reasonably replicates the 
Amazon situation. There we are keeping them toward the day when 
someone will want to do serious research on them. As a nonprofit foun- 
dation, we solicit donations, publish a newsletter, support a number of 
collectors in the field, and carry on this work, which nobody else is real- 
ly doing. There's a lot of rain forest conservation going on, but very little 
effort to conserve the folk knowledge of native peoples. Amazonian peo- 
ple are going off to sawmills and learning to repair outboard motors, 
and this whole body of knowledge about plants is going to be lost in the 
next generation. We're saving it, and saving the plants in a botanical 
garden in Hawaii. 


OUR PRESENT global crisis is more profound than 
any previous historical crises; hence our solutions 
must be equally drastic. 1 propose that we should 
adopt the plant as the organizational model for life 
in the twenty-first century, just as the computer 
seems to be the dominant mental/social model of the 
late twentieth century, and the steam engine was the 
guiding image of the nineteenth century. 

This means reaching back in time to models 
that were successful fifteen thousand to twenty thousand years ago. 
When this is done it becomes possible to see plants as food, shelter, 
clothing, and sources of education and religion. 

The process begins by declaring legitimate what we have denied 
for so long. Let us declare nature to be legitimate. All plants should be 
declared legal, and all animals for that matter. The notion of illegal 
plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous. 

Reestablishing channels of direct communication with the plane- 
tary Other, the mind behind nature, through the use of hallucinogenic 
plants is the last best hope for dissolving the steep walls of cultural in- 
flexibility that appear to be channeling us toward true ruin. We need a 
new set of lenses to see our way in the world. When the medieval world 
shifted its worldview, secularized European society sought salvation in 
the revivifying of classical Greek and Roman approaches to law, philos- 

This essay appeared in the fall 1989 issue of Whole Earth Review. The entire issue 
i intelligence of i 



ty, aesthetics, city planning, and agriculture. Our dilemma will 
• further back into time in a search for models and answers. 


The solution to much of modern malaise, including chemical de- 
pendencies and repressed psychoses and neuroses, is direct exposure to 
the authentic dimensions of risk represented by the experience of 
psychedelic plants. The pro-psychedelic plant position is clearly an an- 
tidrug position. Drug dependencies are the result of habitual, unexam- 
ined, and obsessive behavior; these are precisely the tendencies in our 
psychological makeup that the psychedelics mitigate. The plant hallu- 
cinogens dissolve habits and hold motivations up to inspection by a 
wider, less egocentric, and more grounded point of view within the indi- 
vidual. It is foolish to suggest that there is no risk, but it is equally unin- 
formed to suggest that the risk is not worth taking. What is needed is 
experiential validation of a new guiding image, an overarching 
metaphor able to serve as the basis for a new model of society and the 

The plant-human relationship has always been the foundation of 
our individual and group existence in the world. What I call the Archaic 
Revival is the process of reawakening awareness of traditional attitudes 
toward nature, including plants and our relationship to them. The 
Archaic Revival speJis the eventual breakup of the pattern of male domi- 
nance and hierarchy based on animal organization, something that can- 
not be changed overnight by a sudden shift in collective awareness, 
nther it will follow naturally upon the gradual recognition that the 
»erarching theme that directs the Archaic Revival is the idea/ideal of a 
ation Goddess, the Earth herself as the much ballyhooed Gaia — a 
"t well documented by nineteenth-century anthropologists, most no- 
tably Frazer, but recently given a new respectability by Riane Eisler, 
Marija Gimbutas, James Mellaart, and others. 

The closer a human group is to the gnosis of the vegetable 
mind — the Gaian collectivity of organic life — the closer their connection 
to the archetype of the Goddess and hence to the partnership style of so- 
cial organization. The last time that the mainstream of Western thought 
was refreshed by the gnosis of the vegetable mind was at the close of the 
Hellenistic Era, before the Mystery religions were finally suppressed by 
enthusiastic Christian barbarians. 

My conclusion is that taking the next evolutionary step toward 
the Archaic Revival, the rebirth of the Goddess, and the ending of pro- 
fane history will require an agenda that includes the notion of our rein- 
volvement with and the emergence of the vegetable mind. That same 



boundless landscapes of the imagination. Without such a relationship to 
psychedelic exopheromones regulating our symbiotic relationship with 
the plant kingdom, we stand outside of an understanding of planetary 
purpose. And an understanding of planetary purpose may be the major 
contribution that we can make to the evolutionary process. Returning to 
the bosom of the planetary partnership means trading the point of view 
of the history-created ego for a more maternal and intuitional style. 

The widely felt intuition of the presence of the Other as a female 
companion to the human navigation of history can, I believe, be traced 
back to the immersion in the vegetable mind, which provided the ritual 
context in which human consciousness emerged into the light of self- 
awareness, self-reflection, and self-articulation: the light of the Great 

What does it mean to accept the solutions of vegetable forms of 
life as metaphors for the conduct of the affairs of the human world? Two 
important changes would follow from adopting this assumption: 

• The feminizing of culture. Culture would be feminized on a lev- 
el that has yet to be fully explored. Green Consciousness means recog- 
nizing that the real division between the masculine and the feminine is 
not a division between men and women but rather a division between 
ourselves as conscious animals — omnivorous, land-clearing war makers, 
supreme expression of the yang— and the circumglobal mantle of vege- 
tation — the ancient metastable yin element that constitutes by far the 
major portion of the biomass of the living earth. 

• An inward search for values. Inwardness is the characteristic 
feature of the vegetable rather than the animal approach to existence. 
The animals move, migrate, and swarm, while plants hold fast. Plants 
live in a dimension characterized by the solid state, the fixed, and the en- 
during. If there is movement in the consciousness of plants then it 
must be the movement of spirit and attention in the domain of the 
vegetal imagination. Perhaps this is what the reconnection to the vegetal 
Goddess through psychedelic plants, the Archaic Revival, actually 
points toward: that the life of the spirit is the life that gains access to the 
visionary realms resident in magical plant teachers. This is the truth that 
shamans have always known and practiced. Awareness of the green 
side of mind was called Veriditas by the twelfth-century visionary 
Hildegard von Bingen. 


A new paradigm capable of offering hope of a path out of the cul- 
al quicksand must provide a real-world agenda addressed to the es- 



There are several domains in which the rise of awareness of 
i might help stave off Armageddon: 


Detoxification of the natural environment. The process of detoxifi- 
i is naturally carried out by the combined action of the atmosphere, 
: biological matrix, and the oceans. This planetwide process was able 
» take care of even urban industrial waste, until modern industrial tech- 
became a truly global phenomenon. Planting species of datura, 
plants once a part of the religious rites of the Indians of Southern 
i, and other plants that leach heavy metals from the earth and 
ster them in their cellular tissue are examples of a natural process 
: could help clean up our environment. Recognizing the many ways 
t which the biological matrix of the earth functions to avert toxification, 
recognizing that nature is working to sustain life, might go a long way 
award building a political consensus to actively participate in saving 
t same life. 


Connectedness and symbiosis. Like plants, we need to maximize 
qualities of connectedness and symbiosis. Plant-based approaches to 
eling the world include awareness of the fractal and branching na- 
of community action. A treelike network of symbiotic relationships 
i now replace the model of evolution that we inherited from the nine- 
i century. The earlier model, that of the tooth-and-claw struggle for 
existence, with the survivor taking the hindmost, is a model based on 
naive observation of animal behavior. Yet it was cheerfully extended 
into the realm of plants to explain the evolutionary interactions thought 
to cause speciation in the botanical world. Later, more sophisticated ob- 
servers (C. H. Waddington and Erich Jantsch) found not the War in 
Nature that Darwinists reported but rather a situation in which it was 
not competitive ability but ability to maximize cooperation with other species 
that most directly contributed to an organism's being able to function 
and endure as a member of a biome. Plants interact with each other 
through the tangled mat of roots that connects them all to the source of 
their nutrition and to each other. 

The matted floor of a tropical rain forest is an environment of 
great chemical diversity; the topology approaches that of brain tissue in 
its complexity. Within the network of interconnected roots, complex 
chemical signals are constantly being transmitted and received. 
Coadaptive evolution and symbiotic relationships regulate this entire 




of these cooperative strategies. For example, mycorrhizal fungi live in 
symbiosis on the outside of plant roots and gently balance and buffer 
the mineral-laden water that is moving through them to the roots of 
their host. 

Whole-system fine tuning. If the phenomena associated with bio- 
logical harmony and resonance could be understood, then such large- 
scale systems as global banking or global food production and 
distribution could be more properly managed. The Gaian biologists, 
Lovelock, Margulies, and others, have argued persuasively that the en- 
tire planet has been self-organized by microbial and planktonic life into 
a metastable regime favorable to biology and maintained there for over 
two billion years. Plant-based Gaia has kept a balance throughout time 
and space — and this in spite of the repeated bombardment of the earth 
by asteroidal material sufficient to severely disrupt the planetary equi- 
librium. We can only admire— and we should seek to imitate such a 
Tao-like sense of the planet's multidimensional homeostatic balance. But 
how? I suggest we look at plants — look more deeply, more closely, and 
with a more open mind than we have done before. 


Recycling. Like plants, we need to recycle. On a cosmic scale we 
are no more mobile than plants. Until this point in history we have mod- 
eled our more successful economic systems on animal predation. 
Animals can potentially move on to another resource when they exhaust 
the one at hand. Since they can move to new food sources, they poten- 
tially have unlimited resources. Plants are fixed. They cannot easily 
move to richer nutrients or leave an area if they foul or deplete it. They 
must recycle well. The fostering of a plant-based ethic that emulates the 
way in which the botanical world uses and replaces resources is a sine 
qua non for planetary survival. All capitalistic models presuppose unlim- 
ited exploitable resources and labor pools, yet neither should now be as- 
sumed. I do not know the methods, but I suggest that we start turning to 
the plant world to discover the right questions to ask. 


Photovoltaic power. Appreciation of photovoltaic power is part of 
the shift toward an appreciation of the elegance of the solid state that 
lants possess. Plants practice photosynthetic solutions to the problems 



power acquisition. Compared to the water or animal-turned wheels, 
. are the Ur-metaphors for power production in the human world, 
solid-state quantum-molecular miracle that involves dropping a 
aton of sunlight into a molecular device that will kick out an electron 
apable of energetically participating in the life of a cell seems like ex- 
travagant science fiction. Yet this is, in fact, the principle upon which 
jtosynthesis operates. While the first solid-state devices arrived on 
i human cultural frontier in the late 1940s, solid-state engineering had 
been the preferred design approach of plants for some two thousand 
i years. High efficiency photovoltaics could today meet the daily 
, of most people for electricity. It is the running of basic industries 
on solar energy that has proved difficult. Perhaps this is nature's way of 
telling us that we aspire to too much manufacturing. 


A global atmosphere-based energy economy. The approach of vege- 
tational life to energy production is called photosynthesis. This process 
could be modeled by the creation of a global economy based on using 
solar energy to obtain hydrogen from seawater. Solar electricity could 
supply most electricity needs, but the smelting of aluminum and steel 
and other energy-intensive industrial processes make demands that 
photovoltaic electricity is unlikely to be able to meet. However, there is a 
solution: plants split atmospheric carbon dioxide to release energy and 
oxygen as by-products. A similar but different process could use solar 
electricity to split water to obtain hydrogen. This hydrogen could be col- 
lected and concentrated for later distribution. Plants have been very suc- 
cessful at finding elegant solutions based on material present at hand; a 
hydrogen economy would emulate this same reliance on inexhaustible 
and recyclable materials. 

The notion is a simple one really; it has long been realized by 
planners that hydrogen is the ideal resource to fuel a global economy. 
Hydrogen is clean: when burned it recombines with the water it was 
chemically derived from. Hydrogen is plentiful: one-third of all water is 
hydrogen. And all existing technologies— internal combustion engines, 
coal-, oil-, and nuclear-fired generators — could be retrofitted to run on 
hydrogen. Thus we are not talking about having to scrap the current 
standing crop of existing power production and distribution systems. 
Hydrogen could be "cracked" from seawater at a remote island location 
and then moved by the already existing technology that is used for the 
ocean transport of liquid natural gas from its production points to mar- 
ket. The objection that hydrogen is highly explosive and that proven 
technologies for handling it do not exist has largely been met by the 



LNG industry and its excellent safety record. Hydrogen accidents could 
be extremely destructive, but they would be ordinary explosions — local, 
nontoxic, and without release of radioactivity. Like plant life itself, the 
hydrogen economy would be nonpolluting and self-sustaining; burned 
hydrogen recombines with oxygen to again become water. 

to begin to move toward a proof of concept demonstration of the feasi- 
bility of a hydrogen economy. Granted, there are many possible prob- 
lems with such a scheme. But no plan for the production of energy 
sufficient to meet the needs of the twenty-first century is going to be 
without difficulties. 


Nanotechnology. The era of molecular mechanism promises the 
most radical of the green visions, since it proposes that human- 
engineered quasibiological cells and organelles take over the manufac- 
turing of products and culture. Nanotechnology takes seriously the no- 
tion that manufacturing techniques and methods of manipulating matter 
on the microphysical scale can affect the design process of the human- 
scale world. In the nanotech world, dwellings and machines can be 
"grown," and everything that is manufactured is closer to flesh than 
stone. The distinction between living and nonliving and organic and ar- 
tificial is blurred in the electronic coral reef of human-machine symbio- 
sis contemplated by the savants of nanotechnology. 


Preservation of biological diversity. The life on this planet and the 
chemical diversity that it represents is likely to be the only source of bio- 
logically evolved compounds until the day that we discover another 
planet as teeming with life as our own. Yet we are destroying the living 
diversity of our world at an appalling rate. This must be stopped, not 
only through the preservation of ecosystems but also through the 
preservation of information about those ecosystems that has been accu- 
mulated over thousands of years by the people who live adjacent to 
them. It is impossible to underestimate the importance for human health 
of preservation of folk knowledge concerning healing plants. All the ma- 
jor healing drugs that have changed history have come from living 
plants and fungi. Quinine made conquest of the tropics possible, peni- 
cillin and birth control pills remade the social fabric of the twentieth cen- 
tury. All three of these are plant-derived pharmaceuticals. My partner 
t and I work in this area by managing Botanical Dimensions, a botani- 



:al garden in Hawaii that seeks to preserve the plants utilized in 
Amazonian shamanism, one of many such systems of knowledge that 
are fast disappearing. 

The measures outlined above would tend to promote what might 
be called a sense of Gaian Holism, that is, a sense of the unity and bal- 
! of nature and of our own human position within that dynamic and 
lving balance. It is a plant-based view. This return to a perspective 
self and ego that places them within the larger context of planetary 
and evolution is the essence of the Archaic Revival. Marshall 
cLuhan was correct to see that planetary human culture, the global vil- 
e, would be tribal in character. The next great step toward a planetary 
holism is the partial merging of the technologically transformed human 
world with the archaic matrix of vegetable intelligence that is the 
Overmind of the planet. 

I hesitate to call this dawning awareness religious, yet that is 
/hat it surely is. And it will involve a full exploration of the dimensions 
/ealed by plant hallucinogens, especially those structurally related to 
neurotransmitters already present and functioning in the human brain, 
sful exploration of the plant hallucinogens will probe the most ar- 
: and sensitive level of the drama of the emergence of consciousness; 
it was in the plant-human symbiotic relationships that characterized ar- 
society and religion that the numinous mystery was originally ex- 
ienced. And this experience is no less mysterious for us today, in 
spite of the general assumption that we have replaced the simple awe of 
ancestors with philosophical and epistemic tools of the utmost so- 
stication and analytical power. Our choice as a planetary culture is a 
iple one: go Green or die. 


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Virtual Reality and Electronic Highs 
(Or On Becoming Virtual Octopi) 

LOOKING like a cross between a T'ai Chi master, a navy 
frogman, and the Terminator, a man harnessed to electronic 
leads and fitted with a strange piece of headgear slowly 
turns and gestures. The pointing hand and the ballet of sign 
language, combined with an air of intense concentration, 
give the unmistakable impression that the person is far, 
far away from the brightly lit San Francisco Bay area labo- 
ratory in which he stands. You might almost say that he 
seems as if he were in another world. 

And you would be right. Before you stands a true astronaut of 
inner space, a researcher who is in the processes of going where few 
have gone before. But look quickly — what is today the visionary dream 
of the techie few will very soon be reality for the rest of us. Virtual reali- 
ty, that is. 

Is it mechanistic multimedia masturbation or a doorway swing- 
ing open on the flower-strewn fields of the romantic imagination? A tool 
for discovery and navigation in new aesthetic domains, or the final trivi- 
alizing of the drive to be mindlessly entertained? These are the questions 
that I asked myself one morning recently as I drove toward a ren- 
dezvous with one of the mavens of virtual reality, the redoubtable Eric 
Gullichsen of Autodesk. Then of Autodesk, currently a free agent. For as 
I was to learn later that day, not even virtual reality is immune to corpo- 
rate change and upheaval. Gullichsen and his associate Patrice Gelband 

This piece appeared in Magical Blend, no. 26, winter 1990 and was among the 
very first to examine the implications of this new technology. 


are now virtual guns for hire. The status of Autodesk's future commit- 
ment to research and development in virtual reality is undecided. 

Corporate intrigues aside, worlds are being created by such pio- 
neers in the virtual reality (VR) field as Jaron Lanier and the Autodesk 
special design team Gullichsen headed. It was logical that Autodesk 
should be a leader in the VR field, for their AutoCAD software has 
based much of its appeal on the idea that the user can actually "walk 
around" in a high-resolution three-dimensional simulation of two- 
dimensional blueprints. Pursuit of this idea grew naturally into the idea 
of computer-generated worlds. And Lanier and VTL, his corporation, 
have been the persistent leaders in the field of body and hand imaging 
in the VR. The magical gloves and body stockings that are the keys to 
entry into virtual reality remain Lanier's speciality. 

What is virtual reality? It is a technology currently under devel- 
opment by NASA and private companies in the San Francisco Bay area 
and on the East Coast. It began with the modest intent of simulating the 
experience of flying high-performance fighter aircraft under combat con- 
ditions. Think of it this way: You are the Defense Department. Would 
you turn over a fighter plane costing upward of one hundred million 
dollars to some apple-cheeked hayseed so he can learn to fly it? If you 
spend the cost of one plane on simulation and thereby prevent even one 
crash you are saving a lot of money and possibly human lives. And one 
hundred million dollars buys a lot of simulation! 

What I saw at Autodesk was considerably more modest than the 
classified government efforts. Gullichsen estimated that the whole VR 
apparatus could be re-created for around fifty thousand dollars. Chicken 
feed in the world of high-tech research and development. The fifth-floor 
lab was a sparsely furnished office approximately fifteen by twenty feet 
with a humongous high-resolution color monitor and a quite ordinary 
computer workstation. Introduced around, I was asked if I had any 
questions. Figuring I had done my homework, I suggested we cut to the 

The glove, wonderfully redolent with all the associations that are 
carried by black silk gloves everywhere, was slipped onto my hand. I 
had found it difficult to visualize the motion sensors that I knew were 
stitched on to the back of the gloves on top of each flex point. They ap- 
peared to be small blue beads. The whole thing fitted smoothly. I was 
asked to close and open my hand while the software sensed and entered 
the flex values of my particular hand. Next came the helmet, looking like 
a fancy overweight scuba mask. Once on, it put a Sony Watchman color 
miniscreen about an inch from each eye; a slight discontinuity between 
the screens created the impression of three-dimensional space. 

Once everything was in place I could see the fuzzy, but colored 



space in front of me was what appeared to be a foreshortened spaghetti 
fork. This, I was told, was the virtual image of the glove I was wearing. 
Sure enough, wiggle thumb, leftmost tong of spaghetti fork wiggles. No 
Roger Rabbit appeared, but as I pondered the mechanics of the glove I 
burst noiselessly and effortlessly through a wall and into a burnt-sienna 
space that seemed to, and probably did, extend to infinity. Eric ex- 
plained about pointing. I had been pointing without realizing it. 
Pointing is how you get around in VR, or cyberspace, as the true believ- 
ers call it. When you point at something you move toward it. When you 
open your hand the motion ceases. It is that simple. The eye goes where 
the finger points, and the image of your gloved hand comes along and 
can be used to "pick up," by intersecting, objects in the VR. After a few 
moments the lag time in the refreshing of the images, the weightless- 
ness, the newly insubstantial nature of objects, and the newfound power 
of my right index finger were all familiar enough to me that I could 
slowly make my way around the office without moving through walls 
and objects or taking off through the ceiling or the floor. 

In short, I got it. Talking with Eric and his associate mathemati- 
cian, Patrice Gelband, 1 had the eerie feeling that this might be what it 
would have been like to stop by the Wright brothers' bicycle shop to 
shoot the breeze with Wilbur and Orville about the latest ideas concern- 
ing lift ratios of airfoils. These folks are on to something. They know it 
and I will wager that soon the whole world will know it. We are on the 
brink of another leap in evolution, folks. 

It is only a short step from fighter simulations to simulations of 
architectural models that you can literally "fly the client into," and it is 
only a slightly longer step from a 3-D blueprint of an imaginary office to 
the simulation of the Taj Mahal on a moonlight-flooded summer night— 
in virtual reality. 

If all this sounds too far out to be true, or like a rehash of Philip K. 
Dick's novel A God Named Jones, then that is just the universe's way of 
telling you that you haven't been keeping up. Remember the feelies in 
Aldous Huxley's science fiction distopia Brave New World? Everyone 
went to the feelies and held on to a knob on each side of the velvet cush- 
ioned seat and was conveyed away to the latest risque and ribald fanta- 
sy that the schlockmeisters of future pop culture had prepared for public 
consumption. Of course we have had the operational equivalent of the 
feelies since at least the introduction of television. And the effect of hav- 
ing vast narcotized masses of people hooked on a drug whose content is 
culturally sanctioned and institutionally controlled is certainly debat- 
able. The creeping shit-for-brains disease that seems to have become en- 
demic in America has been blamed on TV by some. However, on one 
level television and now virtual reality are nothing more than the latest 



cal or behavioral characteristics. Lets face it, the world is a complicated 
place; if millions of people choose to retreat into an electronically rein- 
forced state of semiinfantilism it may end up making the total system ul- 
timately easier to pilot into safe harbor. 

Virtual reality is easy to denounce in the same breath with MTV 
and perhaps HDTV — upon which it will in some degree depend. But the 
fact is that VR is more than simply further movement down a primrose 
path strewn with The Price of His Toys catalogs. It is a technology that 
will not only allow us to make more and better art; potentially it is a 
technology that will dissolve the boundaries between us and allow us to 
see the contents of each other's minds. There is also the possibility that 
improved forms of communication, states of near telepathy among par- 
ticipating human beings, can be coaxed out of imaginative use of the 
technology. Because of what VR is intrinsically, there are several ways in 
which it could be the basis of an entirely new kind of communication be- 
tween people. 

Each age takes its self-image from the animal world. The nine- 
teenth century, with its obsession with the power to reshape the earth 
and abolish distances through the new technology of the steam engine, 
took as its guiding image that of the thoroughbred race horse. The early 
twentieth century focused on speed, conquest of the air, and the integra- 
tion of human beings and machines into an ever more lethal symbiosis. 
This process found its realization in high-performance fighter aircraft; 
the animal image was that of the raptor, the relentless bird of prey. 

Jaron Lanier is fond of saying that in virtual reality one can 
choose to be anything: a piano, for example. Fine — having surveyed the 
smorgasbord of morphogenetic options offered by Mother Nature, I 
would choose to be a virtual octopus. Many people, once informed, 
would make the same choice. I believe that the totemic image for the fu- 
ture is the octopus. This is because the cephalopods, the squids and oc- 
topi, have perfected a form of communication that is both psychedelic 
and telepathic; a model for the human communications of the future. In 
the not-too-distant future men and women may shed the monkey body 
to become virtual octopi swimming in a silicon sea. 

Consider: Nature offers the example of the octopus, a creature in 
which well-developed eyes and an ability to change the color, banding, 
and general appearance of the skin surface have favored a visual, and 
hence telepathic, form of communication. An octopus does not commu- 
nicate with spoken words as we do, even though water is a good medi- 
um for acoustical signaling; rather, the octopus becomes its own 
linguistic intent. The octopus is like a naked nervous system, say rather 
a naked mind: the inner states, the thoughts, if you will, of the octopus 
are directly reflected in its outward appearance. It is as though the octo- 


octopus literally dances its thoughts through expression of a series of 
color changes and position changes that require no local linguistic con- 
ventions for understanding as do our words and sentences. In the world 
of the octopus to behold is to understand. Octopi have a large repertoire 
of color changes, dots, blushes, and traveling bars that move across their 
surfaces; this ability in combination with the soft-bodied physique of the 
creature allows it to obscure and reveal its linguistic intent simply by 
rapidly folding and unfolding different parts of its body. The octopus 
does not transmit its linguistic intent, it becomes its linguistic intent. The 
mind and the body of the octopus are the same and are equally visible. 
This means that the octopus wears its language like a kind of second 
skin; it appears to be and becomes what it seeks to mean. There is very 
little loss of definition or signal strength among communicating octopi. 
Indeed, their well-known use of "ink" clouds to conceal themselves may 
indicate that this is the only way that they can have anything like a pri- 
vate thought. The ink cloud may be a kind of correction fluid for voluble 
octopi who have misspoken themselves. 

Like the octopus, our destiny is to become what we think, to have 
our thoughts become our bodies and our bodies become our thoughts. 
This is the essence of a more perfect Logos, a Logos not heard but be- 
held. VR can help here, for electronics can change vocal utterance into 
visually beheld colored output in the virtual reality. This output can 
then be manipulated, by tools still uncreated, tools to be found in the 
kit of the VR hacker /mechanic soon to be. This means that a three- 
dimensional syntax, one that is seen, not heard, becomes possible as an 
experience in VR. You may ask, What is the point of being able to see 
one's voice, even in virtual reality? The point is that others will be able 
to see it as well, that the ambiguity of invisible meanings that attends 
audio speech is replaced by the unambiguous topology of meanings be- 
held. At last we will truly see what we mean. And we will see what oth- 
ers mean too, for cyberspace will be a dimension where anything that 
can be imagined can be made to seem real. 

When we are in the act of seeing what is meant, the communica- 
tor and the one communicated with become as one. In other words, the 
visible languages possible in VR will overcome the subject/object dual- 
ism as well as the Self/Other dualism. 

In trying to imagine the futures onto which these doors open, let 
us not forget that culture and language were the first virtual realities. A 
child is born into a world of unspeakable wonder. Each part of the 
world is seen to glow with animate mystery and the beckoning light of 
the unknown. But quickly our parents and our siblings provide us with 
words. At first these are nouns; that shimmering pattern of sound and 
iridescence is a "bird," that cool, silky, undulating surface is "water." As 



replace mysterious things and feelings with culturally validated and fa- 
miliar words. We tile over reality with a mosaic of interconnected 
words. Later, as we grow in ability and understanding, the culture in 
which we find ourselves provides conventionalized relationships for us 
to model. Lover, father, investor, property owner. Each role has its own 
rules and its own conventions. These roles, too, tile over and replace the 
amorphous wonder of simply being alive. As we learn our lines and the 
blocking that goes with them, we move out of the inchoate realm of the 
preverbal child and in to the realm of the first virtual reality, the VR of 
[hire. Many of us never realize that this domain is virtual, and instead 
! assume that we are discovering the true nature of the real world. 
Musing on this in a recent interview, Jaron Lanier observed: "I 
think virtual reality will have an effect of enhancing and, in a sense, 
completing the culture. My view is that our culture has been abnormally 
distorted by being incredibly molded by technology. . . . Virtual Reality, 
by creating a technology that's general enough to be rather like reality 
was before there was technology, sort of completes a cycle." Lanier's re- 
marks concerning the field that he helped to create have a eerie aura of 
unfocused prescience. He is groping toward a bigger reason for doing all 
5 this. He speaks in terms of a nonsymbolic language, and in terms of 
bifocal glasses with real reality on top, yesterday's VR on the bottom. He 
oscillates between the profound and the quirky. But the idea that VR 
completes a cycle of neurotic behavior that is as old as our use of tools is 
interesting. VR asks us to imagine a future in which there will be virtual 
realities within virtual realities. A man slept, and while asleep dreamed 
he was a butterfly. Upon awakening the man asked himself, "Am I a 
man who slept and dreamed he was a butterfly, or am 1 a butterfly who 
sleeps and is now dreaming he is a man?" 

The promise of VR is that in the near future we will walk the 
beaches and byways of twice ten thousand planets, a virtual new galaxy 
to explore whose name will be Imagination. The rest of our lifetimes our 
busy mind's eye is culturally destined to peer out at thousands of shim- 
mering realities: Angkor Wat and the volcanoes of lo, many of our own 
memories, and the memories of others who have shared this or that en- 
gineered vista or thrill. 

My take on all this is different. I wish all these folks luck. I think 
that we can look forward to terrific pornography based on this technolo- 
gy, to simulations of fixing broken machinery in outer space and tidying 
up inside radioactive zones. Surgeons can already operate on virtual ca- 
davers in one advanced medical teaching facility. But somehow I am 
haunted by a deeper hope for VR. After all, technology has already 
proven that it is the drug most palatable to the Western mind. Could not 
VR allow us to blaze a high trail into the wilderness of the human imagi- 
nation? Then, where each went, would all be free to follow through the 


miracle of instant VR replay? Can the riches of the imagination be made 
a commodity that can be sold back to the consumer, who is also their 
producer? Selling the self should be the easiest of tasks in a society as 
narcissistic as our own. 

And speaking of drugs, just where on the spectrum of the cultural 
pharmaphobia can public and governmental attitudes toward virtual re- 
ality be expected to fall? Is VR to be seen as a "safe and harmless substi- 
tute for drugs" or is it an "electronic illusion from hell"? It is a dreary 
comment on the current infantile state of public dialogue that there is lit- 
tle doubt that we will be subject to both claims in the debate ahead. 

Certainly VR represents a technology of escapism that dwarfs the 
modest intent of the opium smoker or the video game addict. But on the 
other hand, so does modern film. Through color photography most peo- 
ple on earth have vicariously experienced sufficient data to allow them 
to create virtual reality fantasies based on imagination and media- 
fanned expectation. It seems highly unlikely that the development of VR 
will be treated as the spread of a new drug; rather, it is now seen as a 
new frontier for marketing and product development. Indeed, the non- 
destructive nature of VR means that the talent of many artists, designers, 
and engineers can be absorbed into VR projects with no impact whatso- 
ever on ordinary reality. Finally, virtual reality, with its capacity for vir- 
tual replay of constructions of the imagination, may hold the key to 
accessing and mapping of the imagination. The dream of artists, to be 
able to show the fabric of their dreams and visions, may be fast ap- 
proaching virtual reality. 

The more extreme, inventive, and avant-garde of the VR con- 
structions are likely to resemble experiences with psychedelic plants 
rather than more conventionalized forms of art. The doorway to the 
realms of dream and the unconscious will be opened, and what had 
been merely symbolic representations of eccentric individual experience 
will become that experience itself. 

Does Lanier's "nonsymbolic communication" have anything to 
do with the visible languages of the DMT ecstasy? It was this less than 
obvious question that had got me interested in VR in the first place. My 
experiences with shamanic hallucinogens, especially ayahuasca use in the 
Upper Amazon Basin, had shown me the reality of vocal performances 
that are experienced as visual. The magical songs of the ayahuasqueros, 
the folk medicos of the Indians and mestizos of the jungle back rivers, are 
not song as we understand the term. Rather they are intended to be seen 
and to be judged primarily as visual works of art. To those intoxicated 
and adrift upon the visionary reveries unleashed by the brew, the 
singing voice of the shaman has become a magical airbrush of color and 
organized imagery that is breathtaking in its alien and cosmic grandeur. 
My hope is that virtual reality at its best may be the perfect mind sr 


in which to experimentally explore and entrain the higher forms of visu- 
al linguistic processing that accompany tryptamine intoxication. In other 
words, the VR technology can be used to create a tool kit for the con- 
struction of objects made of visual language. These objects would be ex- 
perienced in the VR mode as three-dimensional things; manifolds 
devoid of ordinary verbal ambiguity. This phase shift is a move toward 
a kind of telepathy. The shared beholding of the same linguistic inten- 
tion in an objectified manifold is a true union. We become as one mind 
with this style of communication. Language beheld could perhaps serve 
as the basis for a deeper web of interlocking understandings between 
human beings that would represent a kind of technically aided evolu- 
tionary forward leap of the species. The near future may hold a public 
utility that will provide cable access to a hyperdimensional ocean of visi- 
bly expressed public thoughts. This service will be delivered over cable 
simply because the very large computers necessary to create moving, 
real-time, high-resolution virtual realities will be state-of-the-art main- 
frames for the next few years at least. A kind of informational network 
that one can actually enter into and control through the use of visual 
icons. Is this not true of cyberspace? I believe that it is, that it is what cy- 
berpunk prophet William Gibson was thinking of in his novel 
Neuromancer when he introduced the notion of cyberspace: 

[A] consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate 
operators, in every nation. ... A graphic representation of data abstract- 
ed from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable 
complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters 
and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. (1984, p. 3) 

My hope for virtual reality would be that exploration of such new 
frontiers of language and communication could be built into research 
strategies from the start. Then the loop from the trivial to the archetypal 
might be appreciably shorted as the VR option becomes well known. 

A major career option of the near term is that of professional cy- 
berspace architect/engineer. Such folks will design and direct the con- 
struction of virtual realities and scenarios. Gullichsen, in an article for 
Nexus, wrote: 

The talents of a cyberspace architect will be akin to those of traditional 
architects, film directors, novelists, generals, coaches, playwrights, and 
video game designers. The job of the cyberspace engineer will be to make 
the experience seem real. This job is as artistic as it is technical, for expe- 
rience is something manufactured spontaneously in the mind and senses, 
not something that can be built, packaged, and sold like a car or a refrig- 
erator. (1989, p. 8) 



Consciousness is no better than the quality of the codes that con- 
vey it. VR may hold the possibility of an icon-based visual language that 
could be universally understood while being much more wide spectrum 
in its portrayal of emotions and spatial relationships than is even theo- 
retically possible for spoken language. But we will not find the fountain 
of pure visual poetry if we do not look for it. 

Sacred Plants and Mystic Realities 

ND: COULD you describe the different phases of your 
spiritual quest — from the beginning? 
TM: My original impetus was the shamanism of 
Central Asia, which, as an art historian in the late 1960s, 
interested me enormously. I went to Nepal to study the 
Tibetan language and got an insight not into Buddhism — 
which came to Tibet in the seventh century— but into the 
indigenous shamanism, Bon-Po, which has been there since earliest 
times. I quickly satisfied myself, comparing the experiences and the art 
that I was seeing in Nepal with the sort of experiences that I had as an 
undergraduate in the LSD culture of the mid-1960s, that there was no 
clear one-to-one mapping between the psychedelic experience and tradi- 
tional systems of esoteric thought— even though Timothy Leary and 
Ralph Metzner had given great impetus to that idea by publishing a 
psychedelic guide based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. 

I practiced yoga when I lived in India and in the Seychelles, and I 
came to feel that either I was too lumpen to ever reach enlightenment by 
this means or this was essentially the repetition of historical formulas 
where the real object has long since been lost or forgotten. So I then 
looked at shamanic traditions in situations where there had been less ac- 
culturation to the ongoing sweep of civilization — that meant either the 
remote islands of Indonesia or the Amazon. And I visited both places — 

This interview with Nevill Drury appeared in the autumn 1990, vol. 11, no. 1, is- 
sue of the Australian magazine Nature and Health. 



the Indonesian outer islands first, beginning with Sumatra. Over ten 
months, I walked myself south and east visiting Sumba, Sumbawa, 
Timor, Flores, the Moluccas, Ceram, and Ternate. I was supporting my- 
self as a professional butterfly collector, having a wonderful time and 
confronting a puzzle that many, many botanists have commented upon, 
and that was the unexplained paucity of psychoactive plants in the Old 
World tropics. 

For reasons that are not well understood, the South American 
tropics have a virtual monopoly on the plants that produce hallucino- 
genic indoles. Trying to construct an evolutionary scenario that would 
concentrate these compounds in one continent over all others is a 
thankless task, but having satisfied myself that there was no plant- 
based indigenous psychedelic shamanism in Indonesia, in 1970 I went 
to South America for the first time. I had made a thorough ethnograph- 
ic study of the Amazon Basin before I went. Thanks to the work of 
Richard Evans Schultes at Harvard University, there is a compendious 
body of this sort of material. The principal hallucinogens of the 
Amazon Basin are tryptamines of some sort or another, usually activat- 
ed by being taken in combination with harmine, a monoamine oxidase 
(MAO) inhibitor. This was very interesting because it seemed to imply 
a pharmacological sophistication among these indigenous people that 
was only surpassed in the West in the mid-1950s, when this MAO sys- 
tem was understood. 

Anyway, we got down to South America and began experiment- 
ing with these plants — ayahuasca, the visionary vine that Richard Spruce 
had first encountered when he was there in 1853, and the tryptamine- 
containing snuffs of the Waika and Yanomamo people. It was very clear 
to me that the experience of LSD in a profane society was merely the 
edge of the psychedelic cosmos, and I realized that the conclusion that 
LSD was the most powerful of these compounds was really not well 
founded. What is happening with these tryptamine hallucinogens is a 
tremendous activation of the visual cortex, so that they are true halluci- 
nation-inducing drugs. The dominant motif is a flood of visual imagery 
that, try as one might, one cannot recognize as the contents of either the 
personal or the collective unconscious. This was truly fascinating to me. I 
had made a thorough study of Jung and therefore had the expectation 
that motifs and idea systems from the unconscious mind would prove to 
be reasonably homogeneous worldwide. What I found, instead, with the 
peak intoxication from these plants, was a world of ideas, visual images, 
and noetic insight that really could not be comapped on any tradition — 
even the esoteric tradition. All this seemed to go beyond it. This was so 
fascinating to me that I have made it the compass of my life. 



ND: What impact have psychedelics had, in a creative sense, on 
Western culture? 

TM: In the West the original contact with altered states of con- 
sciousness of any consequence would have to be opium. And opium 
was a major driving force on the Romantic imagination — Coleridge, De 
Quincy, Laurence Steme, and a number of other writers were creating a 
world of darkened ruins, abandoned priories, black water sucking at 
desolate shores — clearly a gloss on the opium state. Then around 1820, 
Byron, Shelley, and others began experimenting with hashish as' well. 
But strangely enough, presumably for cultural reasons, hashish never 
made inroads into the English literary imagination the way that opium 
had. It was left to an American — Fitz Hugh Ludlow — to detail his exper- 
iments as an undergraduate at Union College in 1853, eating large 
amounts of cannabis jelly. And comporting himself in a way that would 
be nearly unknown until a hundred years later! 

There would come to be a fascination with what Baudelaire and 
Gautier called the "artificial paradise" — they saw these drugs as a 
tremendous spark plug to the literary imagination. That attitude was 
then passed on to people like Havelock Ellis, William James, and the 
Germans Kluver and Lewin in the matter of mescaline, which was the 
next compound to be isolated. In the late 1890s Lewin took peyote 
buttons to Germany and the pure substance was extracted. And there it 
was pretty much left until the LSD days of the sixties. 

Now, what all these early researchers established when research 
was legal was that these substances did create a flood of eidetic imagery, 
they did seem to open up insight into what would have to be called 
"mystical landscapes." There was the sense that they were penetrating 
the world of gnosis. 

When LSD was made illegal in the United States in the 1960s, as 
an afterthought so were all other known psychedelics. And consequent- 
ly our description of what these compounds are capable of tends to be 
equated with a type of instant psychoanalysis. You would take these 
substances, and, through a recovery of childhood trauma and insight 
into your situation, you would shed neurotic attitudes. It was a type of 
wonder drug for psychological problems. And there it was left, because 
research became illegal — particularly research with human beings. 

Nevertheless, there was a large underground community that 
continued to dabble in this area, and that community began to build up 
a picture of the activity of these substances that went well beyond the 
Freudian or the Jungian models. What gave particular impetus to this 
evolving point of view were the experiences people were having with 
psilocybin. Psilocybin is the active hallucinogenic compound in certain 



species of mushrooms that have been used for millennia in the central 
Mexican highlands. Under the influence of psilocybin there is an experi- 
ence of contact with a speaking entity— an interior voice that I call the 
Logos. The Logos spoke the Truth — an incontrovertible Truth. Socrates 
had what he called his deamon — his informing "Other." And the ease 
with which psilocybin induces this phenomenon makes it, from the 
viewpoint of a materialist or reductionist rooted in the scientific tradi- 
tion, almost miraculous. 

So I set out to study this phenomenon and to try and determine 
for myself: Was this a deeper level of the psyche that could appear, 
somehow autonomously, to be a resident "Other" in the mind with 
whom one could have conversations? Was this the voice of Mother 
Nature? Or was it an extraterrestrial intelligence? These may seem like 
wild hypotheses, but you have to understand that I was pushed to them 
by evidence, by experience. This was not "blue sky" stuff. Here we had a 
"voice in the head" eager to reveal vast scenarios of esoteric history, the 
vast millennia unfolding in the human future. 

ND: What did you make of it? 

TM: Well, I still don't have the answer. I vacillate. It depends how 
close you are to actually having had the experience — it is hair-raisingly 
like dealing with an extraterrestrial! And yet once you put the experience 
behind you, your rational habits reassert themselves and you say to your- 
self "Surely it could not have been that . . ." 

ND: You feel, don't you, that you are accessing quite different 
spiritual realms from those described by mystics and gurus from the 
Eastern traditions? 

TM: Yes- Their stress on energy centers in the body, levels of 
consciousness, the moral perfection of spiritual dimensions — none of 
this I found to be reliable. What the psilocybin experience seems to ar- 
gue is that there is a kind of parallel universe that is not at all like our 
universe, and yet it is inhabited by beings with an intentionality. It is not 
recognizably the universe of astral travel or of the Robert Monroe out-of- 
the-body experiments. What has always put me off about occultists is 
the humdrum nature of the other world. They talk about radiant people 
in flowing gowns — ascended masters and so on. My overwhelming im- 
pression of the other realm is its utter strangeness — its "Otherness." It is 
not even a universe of three-dimensional space and time. The other 
thing about it, which the esoteric traditions to my mind never confront 
directly, is the reality of it. I am not an occultist. I am spiritual only to the 


degree that I have been forced to be by experience. I came into it a re- 
ductionist, a rationalist, a materialist, an empiricist — and I say no reduc- 
tionist, no empiricist could experience what I have experienced without 
having to seriously retool their philosophy. This is not a reality for the 
menopausal mystic, the self-hypnotized or the soft-headed. This is real. 
And the feeling that radiates out of the psychedelic experience is that it 
has a historical implication, that what has really happened in the twenti- 
eth century is that the cataloging of nature that began in the sixteenth 
century with Linnaeus has at last reached its culmination. And the cata- 
loging of nature has revealed things that were totally unexpected — for 
example, the existence of a dimension that our entire language set, emo- 
tional set, and religious ontology deny. 

What has happened in the twentieth century is that we have 
found out what the witch doctors are really doing, what the shaman re- 
ally intends. This information cannot simply be placed in our museums 
and forgotten: it contains within it a nugget of incontrovertible experi- 
ence that appears to argue that our vision of reality is sorely lacking. 
Somehow we have gone down a road of development that has hidden 
from us vast regions of reality — areas that we have originally dismissed 
as superstition and now don't mention at all. 

ND: Do you feel that the shamanic reality is now the broadest 
paradigm available to us? Is it broader, say, than the Eastern mystical 

TM: Oh, yes, I think so. What I think happened is that in the 
world of prehistory all religion was experiential, and it was based on the 
pursuit of ecstasy through plants. And at some time, very early, a group 
interposed itself between people and direct experience of the "Other." 
This created hierarchies, priesthoods, theological systems, castes, ritual, 
taboos. Shamanism, on the other hand, is an experiential science that 
deals with an area where we know nothing. It is important to remember 
that our epistemological tools have developed very unevenly in the 
West. We know a tremendous amount about what is going on in the 
heart of the atom, but we know absolutely nothing about the nature of 
the mind. We haven't a clue. If mathematical formulation is to be the 
bedrock of ideological certitude, then we have no certitude whatsoever 
in the realm of what is the mind. We assume all kinds of things uncon- 
sciously, but, when pressed, we can't defend our position. 

I think what has happened — because of psychedelics on one level 
and quantum physics on another — is that the program of rationally un- 
derstanding nature has at last been pushed so far that we have reached 
the irrational core of nature herself. Now we can see: My God, the tools 
that brought us here are utterly inadequate. 



ND: Is the human potential movement currently reevaluating 
the role of psychedelics in understanding the nature of consciousness? 
Or do you find yourself somewhat out on a limb among your contempo- 

TM: Well, it's a little of both. The human potential movement at 
times seems like a flight from the psychedelic experience. It will do any- 
thing provided there can be certain confidence that it won't work. 
Therapies have their place, but they are not addressing the question, 
What is the ground of Being? 

I am not alone in advocating a revisioning of psychedelics, but 
my colleagues and I certainly represent a highly suspect and not entirely 
integrated faction of the human potential movement. In a way, you see, 
we are still reacting to what happened in the 1960s. One can say many 
things about one's personal psychedelic experiences — and they are al- 
ways very personal — but if you try to look at ten thousand psychedelic 
experiences the generalized conclusion you reach about what these 
things do is: Number one, they dissolve boundaries whatever the bound- 
aries are. And as a consequence of this they dissolve cultural program- 
So Marxist, shaman, fundamentalist Christian, and nuclear physicist will 
all find themselves deeply questioning their own beliefs, postpsychedel- 
ic. The thing about LSD that did mark it as different from all the other 
psychedelics was that a reasonably competent chemist could produce 
five million doses in a single day! Well, that was unique in human histo- 
ry. When you go to the Amazon or when you take peyote with the 
Huichol it is quite a chore to get sufficient material for twenty people. So 
the release of so much LSD into modem society caused the powers that 
be to assume that the whole social machine was being dissolved in 
acid — literally, before their very eyes. I think that this was a mistake, to 
go at it like this. There were many voices at that time, with many theo- 
ries of how it should be handled. If Aldous Huxley had lived another 
ten years, it would have been very different. His idea was to get the 
psychedelic experience to artists, philosophers, city planners, archi- 
tects—not every eighteen-year-old on earth. 

ND: You focus especially on the tryptamines — but is there a cul- 
tural factor involved here also? Does a modern-day Westerner using 
these psychedelics access the same reality with these substance as a tra- 
ditional South American shaman? 

TM: Ultimately, I don't think that it is cultural. When you smoke 
DMT you have an experience that comes from the flesh and the bone of 
your humanness. However, this experience exists entirely as a private 



reality until you pour it into a linguistic vessel. If you pour it into the lin- 
guistic vessel of English, it's going to look very different than if it is 
poured into the linguistic vessel of Mazatecan. And this has to do with 
the inevitable relativity of language. So part of what I have done is try to 
create a phenomenological description of what actually happens. The 
other thing about these psychedelic experiences is that they are so ex- 
traordinary that we have no way to anchor them in memory. If you visit 
a city you haven't been to before you can always relate it to cities that 
you have been to, but when you go to a place that has no comappable 
point, then you have to create a new language almost from scratch. 

Paradoxically, DMT seems to be about the language-forming ac- 
tivity in human beings. Interestingly, some tens of millennia ago the 
African continent underwent a period of desiccation that continues into 
the present. The great rain forests that covered most of Africa began to 
retreat, leaving grasslands behind them. The primate populations that 
were arboreal were forced by selective pressure to descend into the 
grasslands and to abandon their previously vegetarian habits for an om- 
nivorous diet. They already had a complex system of pack signals, as 
monkeys do, but when they began to develop their hunting strategies on 
the veldt, there was even more pressure to accelerate and develop this 
signaling ability. Well, their omnivorous diet led them to focus on the 
great herds of ungulate animals — wild cattle — that were evolving simul- 
taneously. Now, in the dung of these ungulate animals the psilocybin 
mushrooms make their natural home. They are "coprophilic" — that is to 
say, "dung-loving" mushrooms. This is the only place that they grow. I 
myself have observed the foraging habits of baboons in Kenya. Baboons 
scrabble around in the dirt, and one of their favorite tricks is to flip over 
cow pies looking for beetles and grubs. So the cow pie occupies an im- 
portant position in their world. And yet the mushroom is a totally 
anomalous object in the grassland environment— it stands out like a sore 

Roland Fischer, who did a lot of work with psilocybin before it 
became illegal to give it to human beings, made a very interesting obser- 
vation in the early 1960s. He gave very low doses to people — doses so 
low that you would not have a psychedelic experience and in fact you 
would not notice anything much at all, except a slight arousal. But he 
gave these people visual acuity tests and he discovered that on small 
does of psilocybin you can actually see more clearly than in your normal 
state. You don't have to be an evolutionary biologist to understand that 
if there is a plant in the environment that confers increased visual acuity 
on an animal that has a hunting life-style, then those animals that accept 
this item into their diet are going to be more successful hunters and 
therefore have a more successful reproductive strategy than those ani- 


mals not admitting the item into their diet. Well, if you take slightly 
higher doses of psilocybin this restless arousal turns into sexual arousal. 
And again, more successful copulations mean more successful impreg- 
nations, more successful births. This again favors those using the item in 
their breeding strategy. If you double the dose that causes this sexual 
arousal, then you have a full-fledged contact with something so bizarre, 
so mysterious, that to this day, fifty thousand years later, we still do not 
have the intellectual equipment to understand it. It appears in the minds 
of modern human beings with the same transcendental, awe-inspiring 
force that it must have aroused in the mind of an australopithecine. 

ND: What then is your answer to people who continue to dis- 
miss psychedelic experience as artificial? Surely your view is the exact 
reverse of that? 

TM: Well, there's nothing artificial about it. These things were 
part of the human food chain from the very beginning. Where the mis- 
understanding comes is with the label — these are "drugs," and "drug" is 
a red-flag word. We are hysterical over the subject of drugs. Our whole 
society seems to be dissolving under the onslaught of criminally syndi- 
cated drug distribution systems. What we are going to have to do if we 
are to come to terms with this is to become a little more sophisticated in 
our definitions. I believe that what we really object to about "drugs" is 
that we are alarmed by unexamined, obsessive, self-destructive behav- 
ior. When we see someone acting in this way we draw back. That is 
what addiction to a drug such as cocaine or morphine results in. 
However, psychedelics actually break habits and patterns of thought. 
They actually cause individuals to inspect the structures of their lives 
and make judgments about them. Now, what psychedelics share with 
"drugs" is that they are physical compounds, often pressed into pills, 
and you do put them into your body. But I believe that a reasonable def- 
inition of drugs would have us legalize psilocybin and outlaw televi- 

Imagine if the Japanese had won World War II and had intro- 
duced into American life a drug so insidious that thirty years later the 
average American was spending five hours a day "loaded" on this drug. 
People would just view it as an outrageous atrocity. And yet, we in 
America do this to ourselves. And the horrifying thing about the "trip" 
that television gives you is that it's not your trip. It is a trip that comes 
down through the values systems of a society whose greatest god is the 
almighty dollar. So television is the opiate of the people. I think the 
tremendous governmental resistance to the psychedelic issue is not be- 
cause psychedelics are multimillion-dollar criminal enterprises — they 


are trivial on that level. However, they inspire examination of values, 
and that is the most corrosive thing that can happen. 

ND: Your idea is of the psychedelic pioneer as a type of al- 
chemist who can make the soul tangible, as it were. Could you tell us 
more about this? 

TM: Alchemy was the belief that spirit somehow resided at the 
heart of matter. The alchemists were the heirs to the great Hellenistic re- 
ligious systems that are generally tagged as "gnostic." The central idea 
of Gnosticism is that the material of which "soul and true being" is com- 
posed is trapped through a series of cosmic misfortunes in a low-level 
universe that is alien to it. And the alchemists literalized these ideas to 
suggest that the spirit could somehow be distilled or coaxed from the 
dense matrix of matter. Well, this is also what the psychedelics reinforce, 
and it is interesting to see how alchemists at different times have con- 
tributed to the advancement of pharmacology. For instance, distilled al- 
cohol was discovered by alchemists seeking the elixir of life, and 
Paracelsus popularized opium. This is not to fault the alchemical quest 
but to show that alchemy — the belief that there is spirit in matter — was a 
survival of an older, shamanic strata of belief that involved gaining the 
alliance of a plant. I think the notion that one can make spiritual 
progress by oneself is preposterous. It is virtually impossible to have the 
spiritual experiences that confirm a certain moral order and value sys- 
tem unless you resort to psychedelics or, alternatively, fasting or getting 
lost in the wilderness. I don't think people realize quite how efficacious 
the psychedelics are — these things work! 

1 wish people could be more catholic in their tastes. If you are an 
advocate of the virtues of yoga or natural diet or mantras — you really 
owe it to yourself to explore those concerns using psychedelics at the 
same time. I explored the possibilities I have just mentioned before set- 
tling on the golden road to the soul. 

ND: So why is there such tremendous prejudice, both in the East 
and in the West, against psychedelics? 

TM: I think people are in love with the journey. People love 
seeking answers. If you were to suggest to people that the time of seek- 
ing is over and that the chore is now to face the answer, that's more of a 
challenge! Anyone can sweep up around the ashram for a dozen years 
while congratulating themselves that they are following Baba into en- 
lightenment. It takes courage to take psychedelics — real courage. Your 
stomach clenches, your palms grow damp, because you realize this is 



real — this is going to work. Not in twelve years, not in twenty years, but 
in an hour! What I see in the whole spiritual enterprise is a great number 
of people supporting themselves in one way or another on the basis of 
their lack of success. Were they ever to succeed, these enterprises would 
all be put out of business. But no one's in a hurry for that. 

ND: In your scheme of things, is there any place for institutional- 
ized religion, for orthodox religious beliefs? 

TM: Yes. What I have found is that all of these systems that are 
offered as spiritual paths work splendidly in the presence of 
psychedelics. If you think mantras are effective, try a mantra on twenty 
milligrams of psilocybin and see what happens. All sincere religious mo- 
tivation is illuminated by psychedelics. To put it perhaps in a trivial 
way, the religious quest is an automobile but psychedelics are the petrol 
that runs it. You go nowhere without the fuel no matter how finely craft- 
ed the upholstery, how flawlessly machined the engine. 

ND: Where do you personally think the human potential move- 
ment is heading now, and where do you position yourself in the spec- 

TM: I believe that the best idea will win. We are all under an 
obligation to ourselves and to the world to do our best — to place the best 
ideas on the table. Then all we have to do is stand back and watch. I 
have this Darwinian belief that the correct idea will emerge triumphant. 
To my way of thinking, psychedelics provide the only category that is 
authentic enough to be legislated out of existence. They're not going to 
make quartz crystals or wheat grass juice illegal — these things pose no 
problem. But I think that we are going to have to come to terms with the 
psychedelic possibility. We would have a long time ago in America ex- 
cept for the fact that, on this issue, the Government acts as the enforcing 
arm of Christian fundamentalism. Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness 
are enshrined in the Constitution of the United States as inalienable 
rights. If the pursuit of happiness does not cover the psychedelic quest 
for enlightenment, then I don't know what it can mean. I think we are 
headed for a darker period before the light, because the self-deceiving 
cant of the Government on this issue is going to have to be exposed for 
what it is. I see the whole "hard drug" phenomenon as an enormous con 
game. Governments have always been the major purveyor of addictive 
drugs — right back to the sugar trade in England, the opium wars in 
China, the CIA's involvement in the heroin trade in Southeast Asia dur- 
ing the 1960s, and the current cocaine distribution coming out of South 



America. We're going to have to abandon this Christian wish to legislate 
other people's behavior "for their own good." 

Let's take two drugs for a moment and contrast them: Cocaine is 
ultrachic, costs $100 per gram, is utterly worthless as far as I can see, and 
doesn't get you as wired as a double espresso. Then there's airplane 
glue. It cost $1.20 a tube, and you can totally waste yourself with it and 
probably kill yourself no faster than you can with cocaine. So why aren't 
people in Dior gowns, driving Rolls Royces, honking up airplane glue? 
Because it's tatty, grotesque, declassed And this is what we have to put 
across about these hard drugs. The only way you can do that is to re- 
duce the price of cocaine to $1.25 per gram. Then it will be seen as a hor- 
rible, banal, destructive thing. Only when governments intervene by 
restricting access do things suddenly gain this astronomical worth. So it 
is a game that the government is playing. 

ND: I do see signs in a number of countries that governments are 
at last heeding the environmental message. If we consider the concept of 
the Gaia hypothesis as a reflection of an emerging global awareness, it 
also seems to me that your concept of the "Oversoul" of the planet could 
also become important . . . 

TM: These things are all part of the New Age, but I have aban- 
doned that term in favor of what I call the Archaic Revival — which 
places it all in a better historical perspective. When a culture loses its 
bearing, the traditional response is to go back in history to find the pre- 
vious "anchoring model." An example of this would be the breakup of 
the medieval world at the time of the Renaissance. They had lost their 
compass, so they went back to Greek and Roman models and created 
classicism — Roman law, Greek aesthetics, and so on. 

In the twentieth century a global civilization has lost its bearing, 
and as we look back in time for a model to anchor us we have to go back 
before history to around twelve or fifteen thousand years ago. So the im- 
portant part of the human potential movement and the New Age, I be- 
lieve, is the reempowerment of ritual, the rediscovery of shamanism, the 
re-cognition of psychedelics, and the importance of the Goddess. There 
must also be an authentic religious mystery driving this. Psychedelics 
put you in touch with something that is both real and immediate — the 
mind of the planet. This is the Oversoul of all life on earth. It's the real 
thing. The Gaia hypothesis, which began by proposing that the entire 
planet is a self-regulating system, has now been brought to the level 
where some people are saying "It's almost alive." But I would go much 
further than that. Not only is it alive, but it is "minded." 

I take very seriously the idea that the Logos is real, that there is a 
1 — an Oversoul — that inhabits the biome of 



that human balance, dignity, and religiosity depend on having direct 
contact with this realm. That is what shamanism is providing. It was 
available in the West until the fall of Eleusis and the Mystery tradi- 
tions—to some people— but then it was stamped out by barbarians who 
didn't understand what they had destroyed. 

The soul of the planet is not neutral about the emerging direction 
of human history. We are part of a cosmic drama — I really believe that — 
and although the cosmic drama has lasted for untold ages, I don't think 
it's going to run for untold ages into the future. 

ND: You see all this reaching some sort of climax in 2012 a.d. 
Could you explain that? 

TM: I see some sort of culmination in 2012. The Maya also set 
2012 as the end of a 5,128-year cycle. I believe that what we call histori- 
cal existence is a self-limiting situation that cannot be projected centuries 
into the future. We are tearing the earth to pieces, we are spewing out 
toxins— and the entire planet is reacting. Psychedelics are going to play 
a major role in helping people to become aware of what is really hap- 

ND: You have said that an important part of the mystical quest is 
to face up to death and recognize it as a rhythm of life. Would you like 
to enlarge on your view on the implications of the dying process? 

TM: I take seriously the notion that these psychedelic states are 
an anticipation of the dying process— or, as the Tibetans refer to it, the 
Bardo level beyond physical death. It seems likely that our physical lives 
are a type of launching pad for the soul. As the esoteric traditions say, 
life is an opportunity to prepare for death, and we should learn to recog- 
nize the signposts along the way, so that when death comes, we can 
make the transition smoothly. I think the psychedelics show you the 
transcendental nature of reality. It would be hard to die gracefully as an 
atheist or existentialist. Why should you? Why not rage against the dy- 
ing of the light? But if in fact this is not the dying of the light but the 
Dawning of the Great Light, then one should certainly not rage against 
that. There's a tendency in the New Age to deny death. We have people 
pursuing physical immortality and freezing their heads until the fifth 
millennium, when they can be thawed out. All of this indicates a lack of 
balance or equilibrium. The Tao flows through the realms of life and 
nonlife with equal ease. 

ND: Do you personally regard the death process as a journey 



TM: Like the psychedelic experience, death must be poured into 
the vessel of language. But dying is essentially physiological. It may be 
that there are certain compounds in the brain that are only released 
when it is impossible to reverse the dying process. And yet the near- 
death experience has a curious affinity to the shamanic voyage and the 
psychedelic experience. 

I believe that the best map we have of consciousness is the 
shamanic map. According to this viewpoint, the world has a "center," 
and when you go to the center — which is inside yourself — there is a ver- 
tical axis that allows you to travel up or down. There are celestial 
worlds, there are infernal worlds, there are paradisiacal worlds. These 
are the worlds that open up to us on our shamanic journeys, and I feel 
we have an obligation to explore these domains and pass on that infor- 
mation to others interested in mapping the psyche. At this time in our 
history, it's perhaps the most awe-inspiring journey anyone could hope 
to make. 


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Abraham, Ralph, 179-80, 215, 216 
Admixture plants, 122, 123, 124, 127 
Africa, 80, 146, 147, 244 
Against the Grain (Huysman), 77 
Agriculture, 164 
AIDS, 14 

Alchemy, 59, 125, 173, 246 
Alcohol, 56 

"The Aleph" (Borges), 44 

A/ice's Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll), 

187-88, 189, 195 
Alien(s), 58; humans as, 98; love, 72, 73-74, 75, 

87; as the self, 93. See also Extraterrestrials 
Allegro, John, 151 

Amanita muscaria, 146, 150, 153, 188, 189, 

Amazon, 9, 10, 44, 58, 68, 79, 96, 216 
Amazon Basin, 26, 27, 117, 160, 239 
Americas, rich in plant hallucinogens, 80, 

Amphetamines, 15 

Andrea, Johannes, 176 

Anesthetics, 35 

Animal domestication, 149-53 

Animals, 128,218 

Arabia, 147 

Archaic Revival, 205, 220, 225, 248 
Aristotle, 18 

Art, 43, 62, 66; and virtual reality, 231, 234 
Asia, 238 
Aspilia, 142-43 

Association for the Responsible Use of 

Astral body, 91 
Astrology, 152, 177, 178 
Atomic systems, 78, 90, 101, 104 
Autodesk, 228-29 

Ayahuasca. 3, 7, 10, 26, 29, 34, 68. 116-40, 
239; anesthetic effect of, 132; brews, 130, 
131; chemistry of, 34; compared to psilo- 
cybin mushrooms, 135, 140; DMT pre- 
sent in. 53; dosage, 130, 133, 138, 139, 
140; and environment, 133, 139; forms 
of, 125; group hallucination, 68, 99; 
growth of, 130-31, 133; as health 
restorative, 130; high and visions de- 
scribed, 121-24, 130, 132, 134, 135, 
136-38, 139, 140; with marijuana, 122; 
orally active, 53; preparation of, 124, 
125-26, 128-29, 130, 131, 135; price of, 
123; side effects of, 137; vomiting with, 

Bacon, Roger, 173, 175, 176, 178, 179, 184 
Bali, 30 

Banisteriopsis caapi, 96, 117, 127, 130-31, 133 
Barr, Frank, 51,96. 216 
Bertalanffy, Ludwig von, 215 
Beta-carbolines, 78, 121, 133 
Big Bang Theory, 51, 101 
Bingen, Hildegard von, 220 
Biological diversity, preservation of, 

Biology, evolutionary, 92-93 
Birth, 15 


Blake, William, 31, 54, 77, 92, 100 

Body, 87, 129 

Borges, Jorge Luis, 44 

Bora people, 26 

Bos indicus, 150, 151 

Botanical Dimensions, 216, 224-25 

Bourke.John G., 195 

Bracewell, R. N., 84,85 

Brain chemistry, 16 

Brain-enhancement machines, 212, 213 

Britain, 164 

Brumbaugh, Robert S., 172, 179 
Buddhism, 7, 17,83 
Burroughs, William, 3 

Caapi, 117, 118. Seealso Ayahuasca 
Calendar, Mayan, 18, 110-11, 249 
Canada, 164 
Cannabis. See Marijuana 
Capra, Fritjof, 51 
Carroll, Lewis, 187, 195 
Castaneda, Carlos, 85 
Catal Hiiyiik, 149, 150 
Catharism, 182-84 
Cattle cult, 149 
Omcruw, 121, 123, 126, 127, 128; growing 
of, 127, 12 

123, 128 

Chalice and the Blade, The (Eisler), 149 
Chanting, 60, 124, 138, 139 
Chaos, 32 

Chenoboskion Library, 41 
Chimpanzees, 142-43 
China, 79,107, 108, 152 
Christ, 59; resurrection, 59, 61, 76 
Christianity, 11, 12, 17, 29, 98, 167 
Church: suppression of plant knowledge, 

Clovtceps purpurea, 189 

Cocaine, 245, 247, 248 

Collective: telepathic trance, 120; uncon- 
scious, 54, 64, 125 

Colombia, 26 

Compressionism, 216 

Computers, 19-20, 22, 64, 218, 229; and 
imagination, 213 

Concrescence. 101, 110, 111; 2012 a.d., 101, 

Concunctio, 75 

Confessio, The, 176 

Connectedness. 221 

Consciousness, 42, 69; after biological 
death, 211; collective, 14; defined, 143; 
evolution of, 6; and space, 86; transfor- 
mation of, 32, 157 

Consumerism, 13 

Cooke, Mordecai, 188, 195 

Cordova Rios, Manuel, 119-20 

Corpus Hermeticum, 128 

Crack, 8 

Creativity, 65; as principle of novelty, 110 

Creode, 144 

Crick, Francis, 206, 207 

Culture: feminism of, 220 

Curanderos, 127 

Curing, 85 

Cybernetics, 55, 76, 79, 157, 166. See also 

Virtual reality 
Cyberspace, 230, 232, 235 

Datura, 7, 11, 149 

Death, 13, 37, 46, 69-70; after-death state, 
93; and Cathars, 182, 183; fear of, 100; 
moment of, 90, 91, 92; near, 45, 211; pro- 
cess, 211, 249-50 

Dee, Arthur, 175 

Dee, John, 173-84 

Demons, 53, 135 

DEmpirio, Mary, 180, 181 

Descartes, Rene, 32, 177 

Devil, 127, 128, 149 

Devolution, 215 

Dick, Phillip K., 41 

Difficult Questions, Easy Answers (Graves), 

Dimethyltryptamine. See DMT 
Diploteris cabrerana, 123, 126, 128 
DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) 2, 8, 9, 16, 26, 
27, 30, 34, Amazon, use in, 44; banal im- 
ages associated with subthreshold, 139; 
"black hole effect," 44-45; chemistry of, 
43; dosage, 159; and the ego, 94; experi- 
ments with monkeys, 144; high de- 
scribed, 36-38, 243; hyperdimensional 
language of, 62, 234; and sound, 209. 
See also Ayahuasca; Hallucinogens; 
Psilocybin mushrooms; Psychedelics 
DNA, 42, 64 

Dominator model of society, 149 
Doors of Perception (Huxley), 7, 204, 205 
Dreaming, 9, 34, 77, 91, 94, 95; lucid, 210, 

Drug(s), 219; design, 66; hard, 8, 219, 245, 
247, 248; laboratory, 212-13; social-reli- 
gious, 56 


Drugs and Medicines of North America (jour- 
nal), 190 
Drumming, 2, 12 
Dualism, 18 

Earie (botanist), 150, 293 
Earth. See Planet 
Eastern traditions, 241, 242 
Eckhart, Meister, 31 
Ecology movement, 13, 15, 95 
Ecosystem, 61, 63 
Ecstasy, 2, 13, 14, 44, 66-67 
Ecuador, 26 

Ego, 10, 11, 22, 37, 75, 94, 97, 146 

Einsteinian theory, 104 

Eisler, Riane, 149, 219 

Eleusinian mysteries, 149, 162, 211, 249 

Eleusis,54, 56,63,163,189 

Eliade, Mircea, 67, 93, 96, 144, 166 

Emotion, language of, 213-14 

Endura Rite, 182, 183 

Energy production, 222-24 

English, 77, 98 

Enochian, 175 

Entelechies, 27, 28 

Entities, 16 

Entropy, 109, 116 

Environment, detoxification of, 221 
Epilepsy, 45 
Epistemology, 63 
Eros, 98, 163 
Ethnomedicine, 29 
Ethnomycology, 186, 187, 193, 200 
Etidorhpa (Lloyd), 190-93, 190n, 195, 198 
Evil, 135 

Evolution, 31, 87; coadaptive, 221; future 
goal of, 209, 210; and mushrooms 

Exopheronomes, 145 

Extraterrestrials, 59, 60; archetype of, 73; 
contact with, 35, 73-88; erotic relation- 
ship with, 72, 75; psilocybin mushrooms 
as, 39, 40, 46, 58, 81, 158, 159, 207, 241; 
search for, 159 

Tama, The, 176 
Fasting, 2, 35 
Father, return to, 95 
Fear, 37 

Feminine, the, 220 
Feminism, 76 
Ferguson, Marilyn, 50 

Finnegans Wake (Joyce), 51, 93 

Fischer, Roland, 244 

Flying saucers. See UFOs 

Food for Centaurs (Craves), 151, 186. 200 

Fractals, 51, 209, 213 

Freud, Sigmund, 54, 63, 205; and dreams, 

Fundamentalism, 14, 247 
Fungi, 79, 80 
Future, 66, 215 

Gaia, 219, 222, 225, 248 
Gaines, Jeff, 147n 
Galaxy, 40, 47 
Gelband, Patrice, 228, 230 
Genes, 66, 80 
Genitalia, 79 
Gibson, William, 235 
Ginsberg, Allen, 3 
Global crisis, 218 
Gnosis, 38, 78, 127 
Gnosticism, 16, 246 

Cod, 11, 12-13, 22, 32, 40; direct knowledge 
of, 56 

Goddess, Great, 93, 219, 220; cult of, 149; 
rebirth of, 17, 219; religions, 150, 153, 

Gome National Park, Tanzania, 142 
Gospel of St. Dunstable, 175 
Grasslands, 146-47 

Graves, Robert, 38, 53, 151, 186. 189, 199, 

Greeks, 76, 162 
Grof, Stan, 51 
Guenther, Herbert, 46 
Gullichsen, Eric, 228-30, 235 
Gurus, 12 

Haldane,J. B.S.,165 

Hallucinations, 34-35, 52; group telepathic, 
68, 99, 120 

Hallucinogens, 2, 11, 26; committed doses 
of, 15; endogenous, 78; heroic doses of, 
15; prehistoric use of, 44; in New World, 
80, 239; in Old World, 239; as origin of 
the mind, 146. See also Ayaltuasca; DMT; 
LSD; Psilocybin mushrooms; 

Harmaline, 96 


Harris, Bob, 81 



Hashish, 3, 7, 9, 11, 213, 240 

Healing, 85 

Healing plants, 224 

Heaven and Hell (Huxley), 204 


Heroic doses, 15 

Heroin, 247 

Hertzsprung-Russel equation, 72 
Hieroglyphic Monad, The (Dee), 176 
Hinduism, 44 

History, 82; end of, 18, 41, 60, 70, 87, 92, 
100, 113, 157; patterns of, 214-15 

Hofmann, Albert, 20, 52, 54, 56, 117, 163, 

Hologram, 86 

Huatla dejiminez, 117, 163 

Human potential movement, 243, 247, 248 

Human species: death of, 94; origins of, 54; 

as unevolving species, 92-93. See also 

Huxley, Aldous, 3, 7, 30, 98, 204-5, 230, 


Hydrogen economy, 223-24 
Hypnosis, 30 

/ Ching, 65, 105-8, 205 
Ideas, 79 

Imagination, 19, 63, 65, 66, 76, 86, 95, 100, 

101, 157 
Incubi, 72 

India, 11, 12, 30, 56, 98, 152, 160, 238; 
presence of psilocybin mushrooms, 
151, 153 

Information, 64, 91, 98, 116, 181. 215; vs. 

knowledge, 156 
Invisible College, The (Vallee), 59 
Invisible Landscape, The (McKenna and 

McKenna), 37. 58, 60. 96, 156, 205 
Iquitos, Peru, 26 
Iran, 150, 151 
Iraq, 150, 151 

Irish Eccleslical Record, 195. 196 

James, William, 199n, 240 

Jaynes, Julian, 11, 145-46 

Jewish mysticism, 17 

Jonas, Hans, 53 

Joyce, James. 90, 93, 157 

Jung, Carl, 10, 28, 51, 53, 54, 75, 80, 95, 239 

Kabbalah, 12, 16, 17, 18 

Kelley, Edward, 173, 175, 176, 178, 180, 181 

Kircher, Athanasius, 173-74 

Knowledge, 156, 161 

Kundaiini, 30 

Kwri-coo, 26 

La Barre, Weston, 164 

La Chorrera, sound experiment at, 96, 100 

Lamb, F. Bruce, 117-18 

Language. 19, 42, 47, 62, 105, 157; creating 
reality, 214; dualisms in, 94; evolution 
of, 21, 213-14; origin of, 145, 146; psilo- 
cybin effect on, 39; replicated in DNA, 
64; tryptamine effect on, 36, 62; and vir- 
tual reality, 232; visual, 53, 209, 234, 235, 
236; world as made of, 161, 162 

Lanier, Jaron, 229, 231, 233, 234 

Leary, Timothy, 7, 9, 20, 30, 55, 238 

Levitov, Leo, 182-84 

Light, speed of, 95 

Lightning, 45 

Literature: effect of psychedelics on, 240; 

reference to hallucinogens in, 187-201 ; 

relation to psychedelic experience, 77 
Lloyd, Curtis Gates, 190, 193 
Lloyd, John Uri, 190-93, 195, 201 
Lloyd Library of Botany and Pharmacy, 190 
Logic, 79, 85 

Logos, 16, 22, 29. 32, 36, 38, 43, 52, 53, 61, 
76, 98. 99, 158, 232, 241, 248; discovered. 
41; as perfect, 94, 162 

Lovecraft, Howard Phillips, 182, 198 

LSD, 8, 11, 15, 16, 36, 38, 44, 74, 98, 239, 243; 
clinical experimentation, 54; compared 
to psilocybin, 52-53. 82; culture of 1960s. 
55, 238, 240; made illegal, 164, 240; re- 
tained in body, 43 

LSD: My Problem Child (Hofmann), 117 

Ludlow, Fitz Hugh, 3, 240 

Luis Senyo Indians, 136 

Lunar calendar, 108 

Magic, 43, 79, 149 

Mahayana: Art, 44; Buddhism,, 17, 44 
Male dominance, 149, 219 
Mandaeanism, 85, 151 
Mantras, 30 

MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitor, 239 
Marijuana (cannabis), 128, 184; and 
ayahuasca, 122 



Marvell, Andrew, 77 

Masculine, the, 220 

Mate-choosing, 211-12 

Materialism, 18, 149 

Mathematics, 41, 79; fractal, 51, 209, 213 

Maya, 151; calendar, 18, 110-11, 249 

McKenna, Dennis, 37, 52, 80, 156, 205 

McKenna, Kathleen Harrison (Kat), 118, 

130, 132, 134, 139, 224 
McLuhan, Marshall, 225 

Metn a £°96,97 

Menser, Gary, 82 

Mental disease, 29 

Merrill, A. E., 186 

Mescaline, 3, 6, 7, 15, 16, 36, 98, 240 

Messiahs, 62 

Metzner, Ralph, 9, 56, 72, 238 

Mexico: mushroom cults of, 40, 44, 97, 117 

Meyer, Peter, 108 

Middle Ages, 149,218 

Middle East, 147, 150, 151 

Mind, 41. 60; One. 94 

Mind Parasites, The (Wilson), 59 

Molecules, 78, 101, 104 

Money, 12, 13, 21, 245 

Monkeys, DMT experiments with, 144 

Monkshood, 149 

Monroe, Robert, 241 

"Monsieur Among the Mushrooms" 

(Newman), 195-99 
Morning glories, 7, 213 
Morphine, 245 
Morphogenetic field, 212 
Mosombite, Don Fidel, 120-39 
Most Mysterious Manuscript, The 

(Brumbaugh), 172 
Muinane people, 26 
Munn, Henry, 145 

Mushrooms, 7, 10, 1 6; ancient words, 
phrases, and symbols of, 152; co- 
prophilic, 146, 151, 244; cults, 40, 97-98, 
177, 163, 200; deities, 152; depicted in 
ancient rock paintings, 147 and n, 148; as 
flesh of the Gods, 40; literary reference 
to, 187-201; religious, 153; spores of. 84; 
transfer through space, 46-47, 80, 84, 
206-7. See also Psilocybin mushrooms 

"The Mushrooms of Language" (Munn), 

Mushrooms, Russia and History (Wasson 
and Wasson), 187. 188. 195 

Myristicin, 55 
Mystery, the, 18, 83, 102 
Mystical literature, 59, 67 
Mystics, 67 
Mythology, 51 

Nag Hammadi, 41 
Naisbitt, John, 156 
Nanotechnology, 209, 224 
Narcotic shamanism, 144 
NASA, 229 

Natural Mind, The (Weil). 163 
Nature, 218, 219, 221 
Near-death experience, 45, 211 
Necromicon, The (Lovecraft), 182 
Negativism, 14 
Nepal, 7, 133, 238 
Neuromancer (Cibson), 235 
"The New Accelerator" (Wells), 189-90 
New Age, 13, 29-30, 78, 87, 248, 249; term, 

Newbold, William Romaine, 179 
Newman, A. (H. M. Pirn), 195, 196 
Newtonian theory, 32, 95, 96, 104 
Nightshade, deadly, 149 
1960s drug culture, 158, 169, 238 
Non Nak Tha, Thailand, 150-51 
Novas, 84 

Novelty, 101, 104, 105, 108-13, 136, 166, 

206; synonyms for, 109 
Nuclear age, 61, 163 

Occult, 59. 241 

Oco-yage, 123 

Octopus, 21-22, 231-32 

Oo-koo-hey. See Kuri-coo 

Opium, 240, 246. 247 

Orbi, Juana Gonzales. 120, 126, 128 

Orgasm, 207 

Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of 
the Bicameral Mind, The (Jaynes), 11, 

Osmond, Humphrey, 30, 163 

Other, 2, 32, 41, 52, 65, 69, 78, 136, 241; de- 
sire to fuse with, 74, 76; ideal of, 76; in 
man, 140, nature of, 83; need for, 83; re- 
lationship with, 73, 76 

Ott, Jonathan, 81-82 

Overmind (God), 10, 11, 28, 64, 65, 69, 94 
Oversoul, 60, 61, 62, 69, 97; of the planet, 



Paganism, 17, 62, 163 
Palenque, Mexico, 151 
Panaeolus papilionaceus, 186-87, 189 
Pan-spermia theory, 84, 206-7 
Parmenides, 98 

Partnership model of society, 149, 151 
Patriarchal politics, 13 
Penicillin, 224 
Persephone myth, 72 

Peyote, 7, 15, 240, 243 
Pharmaceutical botany, 55 
Pharmacology, 31 
Pheromones, 145 
PhiloJudaeus,94, 162 
Philosophers, 61-62, 162 
Philosopher's Stone, 182 
Philosopher's Stone. The (Wilson), 182 
Photosynthesis, 222-23 
Photovoltaic power, 222-23 
Physics, 105 
Physis, 100, 101 

Pirn, Herbert Moore, 1% and n, 198, 199, 

Plain and Easy Account of British Fungi 
(Cooke), 188 

Planet: human departure from, 66, 92, 157, 
158, 167 

Planetary purpose, 150, 220 

Plants: admixture, 122, 123, 124, 127; and 
gnosis, 43; and human relationship, 
218-25; illegal, 218; as sacred and di- 
vine, 56. See also Hallucinogens; 
Psychedelics; specific names of 

Plato, 27, 42, 50, 98 

Platonism, 162, 163 

Pollock, Stephen, 82 
Ponnamperuma, Cyril, 84, 207 
Power holders, 56 
Pre-Columbian textiles, 147 
Price, Richard, 50 
Priesthood, 56 

Primates, evolution and plant hallucino- 
gens. 144-47, 207, 244 
Primitive cultures, 29, 68 
Problem solving, 12 
Process and Reality (Whitehead), 110 
Psilocin, 80 
Psilocybe. 151 
Psilocybe cubensis 

Psilocybin mushrooms 
Psilocybin mushrooms, 2, 8, 13, 15, 16, 21, 
27, 30, 32, 34, 35-36, 53, 124, 150, 151, 
200, 201, 240-41; availability of, 81; 
chemistry of, 43, 80; compared to 
ayahuasca, 135, 140; compared to LSD, 
52, 82; coprophilic, 146, 151, 244; cults, 
40, 97-98, 117, 163, 200; dialogue with, 
74-75, 81, 100, 208; dosage, 159; and 
evolution of man, 142-53, 207, 244-45; 
experience described, 39-40; as extrater- 
restrials, 39, 40, 46, 58, 81, 158, 159, 207, 
241; habitats, 150, 151; illegal, 164, 240; 
as intelligent life form, 84; new species 
of, 163-64; origins in space, 46-47, 80, 
206-7; and perception of reality, 69; 
prejudice against, 186, 243, 246; and sex- 

137; and spiritual awareness, 144; 
spread of through old and new world, 
149-53. See also Ayahuasca; DMT 

Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower's 
Guide (McKenna), 39, 81, 99 

Psychedelic(s): creative impact on Western 
culture, 240; illegality of, 164, 240; mod- 
eling the after death state, 93; prejudice 
against, 160, 161, 164, 243, 245, 246; re- 
search, 54, 55, 68, 69, 99. See also 
Hallucinogens; LSD 

Psychic experiences, 76 

Psychoactive plants. See Hallucinogens; 

Psychoanalysis, 161 

Psychoid, 51 

Psychological disorders, 29 
Psychotherapy, 9, 14 
Psychotic breaks, 95 
Psychotriaviridis, 121 
Puca huasca, 123, 126, 128 
Pucallpa, 120, 121, 123, 124, 127, 130 
"The Purple Pileus" (Wells), 188-S9 

Quantum mechanics, 34 
Quantum physics, 51, 209, 242 
Quinine, 224 

Reagan era, 7, 14 

Reality, 161; changes in, under 

tryptamines, 68-69; extaordinary, 161; 

made by language, 214; myth, 67; nature 

of, 51; true story of, 78 



Recycling, 222 

Religion, 18, 28, 32, 136; belief and disbe- 
lief, 61; early, 242; Father-God notion, 
73; Goddess, 150, 153, 183; hierarchies 
in, 28; mushroom, 153; mushrooms as 
cause of, 144; origin of, 54; and the tran- 
scendental object, 20 

Reproduction, 207, 244-45 

Resources, natural, 222 
Rig Veda, 152 
Ritual, 205 

Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the 

Mysteries, The (Wasson), 189 
Rock paintings, Tassili Plateau, 147 and n, 


Rodriguez, Eloy, 142-43 
Rolfing, 12 
Romans, 59, 76 
Rosicrucians, 173, 176 
Ruck, Carl A. P., 163, 189 
Rudolph II of Bohemia, 172-73, 177, 178, 

Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (Allegro), 

Sadhus.W, 151,160 
Sahara Desert, 146 

"Sailing to Byzantium" (Yeats), 63, 167 
Sanity, 67 
Saur, Carl, 147 

Scatalogic Rites of All Nations (Bourke), 195 
Schizophrenia, 63 

Schultes, Richard Evans, 20, 118, 128, 239 
Science, 16, 41, 63, 81, 91, 136; as a threat to 

humans, 61 
Scientific Perspectives on Extraterrestrial 

Communication (Ponnamperuma), 84 
"The Sect of the Phoenix" (Borges), 44 
Self: as the alien, 93; and body. 87; defined. 

83; as pre-Homeric "god," 146 
Separateness, 23 
Serontonin, 43 

Seven Sisters of Sleep, The (Cooke), 188, 195 
Sex and sexuality, 13, 20, 98; arousal, 207, 
208, 245; between humans and non-hu- 
mans, 72; and psychedelic experience, 
79; repression, 14; as taboo, 146; Taoist 
and Tantra practices, 75 
Shah, ldris,200,201 

Shamanism, 2, 3, 7, 17, 242; and after-life 
body, 92; of Central Asia, 238-39; de- 

fined, 13; described, 45; hallucinogenic 
vs. non-hallucinogenic, 166; and modern 
society, 165; narcotic, 144; singing and 
chanting, 22, 60, 68, 234 

Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy 
(Eliade), 144 

Shamans, 91; ancient depictions of, 147 and 
n, 148; ayahuasca, 135-36; described, 45, 
65; family lines of, 45; as healers, 85, 126; 
as peripheral to society, 165 

Sheldrake, Rupert, 212, 215, 216 

Shew Stone, 175, 182 

Shulgin, Alexander (Sasha), 34, 53 

Sierra Mazateca, 98 

Sin, 152 

Singing, 22, 60, 68, 137. 234 
Sleep, 77-78, 91 
Smack, 8 


Social: change. 166; transformation, 97 
Society: dominator vs. partnership models, 

149; modern malaise of, 219 
Socrates, 162, 241 
Solar energy, 223 
Solar system, 66 

Solution of the Voynich Manuscript (Levitov), 

Soma, 56, 150, 152 

Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (Wasson). 

Sorror mystica, 80 

Soul, 129, 246; alienation from, 40; and 
bodily death, 90; fate of, 91; as the sec- 
ond body, 128 

Sound. 139, 208-9; charging molecular 
structures, 96; as energy, 60 

Space: colonization and exploration, 63, 96, 
209; craft, 58; habitats. 66; transfer of ge- 
netic material through, 80. See also 
Extraterrestrials; UFOs 

Space, inner vs. outer, 86-87 

Spanish conquest, 40, 151 

Speaking in tongues, 38. See also 

Spirits, 212; evocation of, 212; meanings of, 

8; move- 
ment, 15 

Spirituality, mushrooms as cause of, 144 
Spore companies, 82 
Spruce, Richard, 117, 239 
Stars, 84, 104 



Star Wars, 165 
State, as shaman, 65 
Stenographica, The (Trethemius), 174 
St. Joan, 28 

St. John of the Cross, 31 
Strong, Dr., 179-80 

Stropharia cubensis. See Psilocybin mush- 
Succubi, 72 

Sufi mysticism, 12, 17, 200-201 
Sufis, The (Shah), 200, 201 
Sumeria, 152 
Superconductivity, 209 
Superego, 10 
Symbiosis, 221-22 

Taboos, 76, 146, 242 

Tantra, 75, 98 

Tao, 22, 62, 110, 214, 249 

Taoism, 79, 105; sex practices, 75, 79; 

yoga, 92 
Tao TeChing, 105 

Technology, 63, 79, 93, 96, 166, 167; and 

virtual reality, 228-36 
Telekinesis, 91 

Telepathy, 22, 64, 68, 79, 99, 159, 231, 235; 
and ayahuasca, 117; and collective trance, 

Television, 22, 230, 245 

Theophagy, 40 

Thiarubrine-A, 142-43 

Tibet, 211, 238; Buddhism, 11; shaman- 
ism, 7 

Time, 20, 60, 95, 101, 104-13; end of, 41, 65, 
70, 85, 206; experience of, 95; graphs of, 
109, 111, 172; new model of, 105-13, 
205-6, 215, 216; theory of, 65; travel, 63, 

Timewave Zero, 20 
Timewaves, 108-11, 206, 215-216 
Tokanoan Indians, 117 
Torah, 17 

Towers, Neil, 142-43 
Trance dancing, 30 

Transcendental object, 18, 19, 20, 21, 113 
Transformation, 70, 97; of consciousness, 

32, 157; social, 97 
Trethemius, Johannes, 174 
True Hallucinations (McKenna), 58 
Truth, 241 

Tryptamines, 27, 30, 159, 239; differing 
from LSD, 52; and interior dialogue, 
35-36; oral vs. smoked, 53. See also DMT 

Tsentsek, 123 

Turkey, 150, 151 

20th century, 20, 21 

2012 a.d. (as end of history or time), 21, 

"The Two Births of Dionysus" (Graves), 


UFOs, 43, 58-70, 75, 76. 129, 161; erotic di- 
mension of, 72 
U/ysses (Joyce), 90 

Universe, 42, 51, 66, 88, 216; birth of, 104 

Vallee, Jacques, 59 
Valis (Dick), 41 
Values, 13, 220, 246 
Vedas, 152 

Vegetable mind. 219-20 
Vcriditas, 220. 221 
Virtual reality (VR), 228-36 
■sion, 207, 208, improved by psilocyb n. 

Voices, interior guiding, 27, 28, 35, 74. 158, 

Von Neumann machine, 84 
Voynich, Alfred, 174 
Voynich Manuscript, 172-84 
Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma, The 
(D'Empirio), 180, 181 

Waddington.C. H., 144 

Waite. A. E., 183-84 

Wallace. Alfred Russel, 117 

Wasson. Gordon. 20, 27, 40. 144, 151, 163, 

166, 186-90, 193, 195, 199, 200, 201 
Wasson, Valentina, 40, 151, 186-90, 195, 

199, 201 

Wasson (Valentina and Gordon) Ethno- 
mycological Collection, Harvard, 195 

Weil, Andrew (Andy), 163, 164 

Wells, H. G., 63, 188-90, 195 

Western Culture, 14. 42 

Western Society: Shamanism lacking in, 45; 
and the spirit, 28 

White Goddess, The (Graves), 38 

Whitehead, Alfred North, 42, 100. 101. 
109-10, 162 

Wholeness, 13, 14 



Wilgas, Neal, 190 
Wilson, Colin, 59. 182 
Wine, 56 

Witchcraft, 17, 149 
Witoto people, 26 

Wizard of the Upper Amazon, (Lamb), 

117-18, 119 
World transformation, 87-88 

Yage, 3, 117, 118 See also Ayahuasca 

Yagi Utters, The (Burroughs; Ginsberg), 3 

Yeats, 63, 167 

Yoda (character), 165 

Yoga, 11, 77-79, 91-92, 98, 151. 210. 238 

Yogis, 11 

Young, Authur, 50 

Zero rime, (2012 AD), 21, 101, 110, 111-13, 

215, 249 
Zolmr, 38 

Zoroastrianism, 151 

This constitutes a continuation of the copyright page. 

The author wishes to thank the following publishers and publica- 
tions for permission to reprint articles that originally appeared in their 

Jay Levin (ed.) for permission to reprint In Praise of Psychedelics, 
which originally appeared in L. A. Weekly, May 20-26, 1988, vol. 10, no. 
26. Allison Kennedy (ed.) at Mondo 2000 (formerly High Frontiers) for 
permission to reprint the High Frontiers interview, originally printed in 
High Frontiers, vol. 1, no. 1, fall 1984. The Heldref Foundation for permis- 
sion to reprint "A Conversation Over Saucers," which appeared in 
Revision, vol. 11, no. 3, winter 1989; "Temporal Resonance," which first 
appeared in Revision, vol. 10, no. 1, summer 1987; and "Hallucinogenic 
Mushrooms and Evolution," originally published in Revision, vol. 10, no. 
4, spring 1988. The editors of Magical Blend magazine for permission to 
reprint "New Maps of Hyperspace," which appeared first in issue no. 22 
of Magical Blend, April 1989, and "Virtual Reality and Electronic Highs," 
which appeared in Magical Blend, no. 26, April 1990. The Prism Unity 
Press of Great Britain for permission to reprint "Among Ayahuasqueros," 
which first appeared in their 1989 anthology Gateway to Inner Space, edit- 
ed by Christian Ratsch. New Dimensions Radio (P. O. Box 410410, San 
Francisco, California 94141) for permission to transcribe "The New 
Dimensions Interview," no. 1243. Jay Kinney of Gnosis magazine for per- 
mission to reprint "The Voynich MS," portions of which appeared in 
Gnosis, no. 7, spring 1988. Dioscorides Press for permission to reprint 
"Wasson's Literary Precursors," which originally appeared in The Sacred 
Mushroom Seeker, edited by Thomas J. Riedlinger, copyright © 1990 by 
Dioscorides Press (an imprint of Timber Press, Inc.). David Jay Brown 
for permission to reprint the "Critique Interview," which originally ap- 
peared in the magazine Critique, summer 1989. Whole Earth Review for 
permission to reprint "Plan, Plant, Planet," which first appeared in the 
Whole Earth Review, fall 1989. Nevill Drury, editor of Nature and Health, 
for permission to reprint "Sacred Plants and Mystic Realities," which 
originally appeared in Nature and Health, vol. 11, no. 1, autumn 1990. 

About the Illustrator 

Satty (Wilfred Podriech), born in Bremen, Germany in 1939, be- 
gan making pictorial collages in 1966, inspired by the openness and cre- 
ativity of San Francisco's hippie era. He became a prolific artist, creating 
hundreds of black and white collages, many of them printed by the 
booming poster market and in the underground and establishment 
press. He produced two collage books, The Cosmic Bicycle and Time Zone, 
and his work has been exhibited in many galleries and museums, in- 
cluding the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of 
Modem Art, New York; and the National Museum, Warsaw. Satty died 
in San Francisco in 1982. 

Some of the illustrations in this book first appeared in The Cosmic 
Bicycle and Time Zone. Most have never before been published.